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French politicians address spate of violence in Marseille

media A man, 25, was killed Monday night in Marseille REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, accompanied by five of his ministers, arrived Tuesday afternoon in the southern port city of Marseille to address an upsurge in violence that has killed two since Sunday.

Ayrault arrived at the Conception Hospital to discuss safety protocols with an emergency team and elected officials, revoking memories of a similar trip just over a year ago.

On Sunday, a nurse at the hospital was injured by men who had come to the hospital for treatment after killing an 18-year-old with a knife.

One of France’s poorest cities, Marseille has long grappled with high crime rates that have increasingly become more violent over the years.

While drug trafficking and an increase in gun violence has left many worried, isolated impoverished neighborhoods and economic strife are driving many young people towards violence.

Last September, Ayrualt embarked on a similar trip to Marseille after drug-related crimes spiralled out of control and even prompted one politician to call for the army to intervene. While there, he launched a committee that would dispatch an additional 205 police officers and more long-term policies to bring down poverty rates.

Senator Samia Ghalia who represents the Bouches-du-Rhône department has now called into question these policies as the violence has not abated.

“I realise that a year later to the day, the situation has unfortunately not changed much,” Ghalia said. “I am unable to say what came out of that interdepartmental committee. Nothing came out of it.”

On Monday night another man, 25, died from multiple gun wounds after a brawl broke out near the city’s old port.

There have been 13 deaths in the region since early 2013, including the death of a student on August 9 close to the central police station.

Former Minister of Justice and Vice President of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Rachida Dati has also slammed the government’s response to violence in Marseille and said it has “become the symbol of failure in government policy.”

But for some, Marseille is a symbol of something entirely different.

The city is also the European Union Capital of Culture – but for those who know both sides of this bifurcated city, long-term policies that address economic strife and segregation are needed to address its most pressing issues.

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