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Eiffel Tower reopens after staff protest over pickpockets

Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP file picture | An aerial view of the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, on January 11, 2015

Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower on Friday reopened after staff working at the popular landmark staged a near one-day walkout to protest a steep increase in pickpockets targeting the plethora of tourists.


The tower, also known as the Iron Lady, was closed on Friday morning when staff said they had had enough of the "increase in pickpockets around the Eiffel Tower”, saying they are regularly subject to “threats and assaults" by the thieves.

The workers demanded "formal guarantees from management that lasting and effective measures will be taken to end this scourge to which numerous tourists fall victim every day".

After a near seven-hour closure, however, La Société d'exploitation de la tour Eiffel (SETE), the firm in charge of operating the 126-year-old monument, said it had come to an agreement with the workers and that the tower had opened again, but did not provide more details on the measures agreed upon.

One of the workers that took part in the walkout told the AFP news agency that the pickpockets operating in the area commonly work in gangs of four to five people, but can at times be as many as 30. It is not unusual for staff operating the tower’s elevators to warn passengers if a pickpocket is trying to blend in with the tourist crowds.

The Eiffel Tower receives around seven million visitors a year.

The Paris police department could not immediately provide the number of complaints it received from tourists targeted by thieves last year, but are expected to release the number in the coming days.

Asian tourists targeted

The closure of the Iron Lady echoes that of an employee walkout at the Louvre museum two years ago which was also due to the rise in pickpockets.

In April 2013, hundreds of tourists were left disappointed when the famed art museum – home to masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo – closed its doors after staff complained of being insulted and even assaulted by pickpockets.

Paris, which according to official figures last year received 22 million visitors, is one of the world's top tourist destinations but has in turned become a lucrative mecca for both tricksters and thieves.

Asian tourists are particularly targeted due to the fact that many of them prefer paying in cash rather than by credit cards.

In response to the surge in tourist muggings and attacks, the head of the Parisian police, Bernard Boucault, on Thursday announced that some 26,000 officers and city agents would patrol the streets surrounding the city’s popular tourist attractions this summer.

One hundred thousand copies of a “Guide to Staying Safe in Paris”, a guide compiled by the Parisian police force in cooperation with the tourist office and City Hall, will also be distributed in embassies and hotels to warn visitors before they sightsee the City of Lights.

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