"I Have Long Been Wondering When the Situation Would Explode"

Just who are the rioters in France? In an effort to find out, SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with French immigration expert Laurent Mucchielli. He says feelings of anger, injustice and exclusion are fuelling the violence.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The riots in France will soon be two weeks old and have required equipping the state with the power to impose curfews. Did anyone see this coming?

Laurent Mucchielli: Like many observers, I have been wondering over the past few months, when the situation in the suburbs of
France, blighted as they are with lingering tensions and permanent unrest, would start to explode. Indeed, none of the major issues faced in the suburbs over the past 15 years have been effectively resolved or even addressed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The media has been portraying the suburbs of
Paris as an urban wasteland full of shiftless youths with no futures. What is the root cause of the rioting?

Mucchielli: The root cause is the economic plight of the country. The politicians and the media keep focusing on the rise and fall of the national unemployment rate. But that statistic ignores the level of unemployment faced by local youths in the suburbs. Take, for example, those young people with a working class background and no higher education degree. Among these people, unemployment is sometimes as high as 50 percent. If you factor in racial discrimination, it can be even higher. Such is the economic reality faced by youths in the suburbs and it fuels feelings of anger, injustice and exclusion.