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Abandoning poorest areas fuelled Islamic extremism, French president claims

President Emmanuel Macron has said the French government itself fuelled home-grown Islamic extremism by abandoning its poorest areas.

Mr Macron made the comments as he pledged tough and "sometimes authoritarian" new measures to combat radicalisation.

He unveiled a multibillion-euro plan on Tuesday to help France's troubled banlieues - suburban regions where crime flourishes and job opportunities are scant, especially for minorities with origins in former French colonies.

More than five million people live in France's poorest districts, where unemployment is 25%, well above the near 10% national average.

For those under 30, the prospects are even worse - more than a third are officially unemployed.

Mr Macron's answer is to provide grants for poor youths to launch start-ups, double the funding for public housing, expand child care, improve public transport in isolated or poor areas, offer subsidies for companies that hire disadvantaged youth and hire more local police officers.

The president said "radicalisation took root because the state checked out" and abdicated its responsibilities in impoverished areas, leaving extremist preachers to fill the void.

Several extremist attackers who have targeted France in recent years were raised in troubled French social housing.

Laurent Nunez, head of domestic French intelligence agency DGSI, said nearly 18,000 people are on radicalism watch lists.

Mr Macron said his government will present about 15 measures to fight radicalisation and will close "unacceptable structures" that promote extremism and "try to fracture us".

On Tuesday, he visited Tourcoing in northern France, taking selfies with residents and promoting local technology entrepreneurs.

Labelled by critics as the "president of the rich" for his business-friendly economic vision, Mr Macron insisted his strategy will only succeed if companies hire minorities and the poor.

He promised measures to name and shame companies found to discriminate when hiring, to ensure help for teenagers seeking internships and to include poor youths in French technology incubators.

Some proposals are small but significant, such as state aid to keep libraries open later, so young people have a safe place to be after dark in dangerous districts.


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