AP Photo - Francois Mori

Resident group claims women have become ‘endangered species’

IT'S supposed to be the place of liberte, egalite and fraternitie, but locals in one Paris suburb claim women have become an "endangered species" in the heart of the city.

Local activist group SOS La Chapelle, made up of residents in the La Chapelle-Pajol suburb, say the area has become a "no go zone" for women who area afraid to walk the streets of central Paris.

Together with members of another resident's group, Demain La Chapelle, they've launched a petition calling for French President Emmanuel Macron, his Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, to increase police numbers and clean up the area they say is dominated by drug dealers and traffickers.

An online petition titled "Women an endangered species in the heart of Paris" has gained nearly 20,000 fans on Facebook in two weeks. It claims women in the area are subject to insults in "all languages such as "b****, dirty wh*re, I'll kiss you."

"There are pickpockets street drinking, spitting, rubbish everywhere, The heady smell of urine," it states.

"There are the traffickers that take root: human beings, drugs, cigarettes, or false documents.

"The employees of these traffickers mean to us every day that we are undesirable, we and our children."

News of the petition has made headlines in France and sparked protests in the area as it comes amid a wider debate about immigration and cultural attitudes in the society where the burka is banned and immigration was a galvanising issue in recent Presidential and parliamentary elections.

La Chapelle has become home to a number of migrants in recent months following the closure of the Jungle refugee camp in Calais due to its proximity to Gare du Nord station from which the Eurostar travels direct to Calais and London.

It has quickly become politicised with some blaming immigrants for "hunting" women and creating a "male den" in the city.

The organisers have strenuously denied they were targeting one group or another and say they simply want to make women safe.

"Our petition written by local women does not target any particular public, it makes an inventory of various problems that overlap each other and cause problems of different natures (security, cleanliness, alcoholism, traffic, occupation of the public space ...)." the group posted in a follow-up statement online.

"We absolutely do not endorse articles and reports that make rapid amalgamations aimed at stigmatising a population."

However those unhappy with the petition, that has led to street protests, claim it is xenophobia dressed up as feminism and has stoked anti-immigrant sentiment.

"It is a complete manipulation of the truth," a woman known as Alice, told The Local. "The majority of the people in the area behave well"

"I have to come here everyday and if I didn't feel safe I wouldn't do it. This is a lie made up by the press and right-wing politicians," another said.

Demain La Chappelle organiser Loic Guzman said the group is not "targeting migrants", but their presence has attracted criminal gangs who sell fake immigration papers and drugs which has become the real problem.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has called for new accommodation centres "all over" the country to help address the issue of where to house the migrants moved out of Calais' Jungle.

News Corp Australia

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