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Gens du voyage: near Lille, ten years of women’s struggle for a change of scenery

A change of air to be able to breathe: since 2013, in a site for travelers near Lille caught in the grip between a cement plant and a furnace, women have been leading the fight to reclaim a livable environment next to these factories? Normally non-human beings” In the kitchen of her shack, next to her three sisters, Sue Ellen Demestre displays undiminished indignation after a decade of commitment.In fact, her family has been established for 15 years in this area, where by her count it is about 280 people are crushed. A curtain of trees separates them from the cement plant, an embankment from a rubble crushing plant. Originally, the families had set up a “wild” camp on nearby land to spend the winter there A reception area was created in 2007, the Besson law requires municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to have one At first satisfied, the occupants are disappointed when the concrete crust, joint tivitis and breathing problems, reports Sue Ellen. Not to mention the noise and ballet of the trucks. But for lack of other solution and to educate the children, they take root. Until 2013, the Briqueteries du Nord settled in the Gypsy dialect. Petitions, demonstrations, having a film made follow one another – “We pay to die” – “We lost our 42-year-old sister-in-law to generalized cancer. Her brother also had cancer. Out of ten births, seven children end up with asthma. Old people have recurring bronchitis,” lists Sue Ellen, pointing to “environmental racism.” rent. “In July-August it’s unbearable: put down a phone, in two minutes it’s covered in dust.” she suffers from respiratory problems and eye irritation. No official link has been established between the health status of the residents and the site’s pollution. In November 2020, the prefecture asked the cement company CCB to evaluate its emissions at its own expense. The measurements will be carried out “in the second quarter of 2023”, CCB assures. So far, no design firm has agreed to step in because of the “risk of degradation” of equipment by residents, the firm pleads. “We can take all the measures we want, however there is dust and I don’t want to live there anymore”, sweeps the elected representative of the Lille metropolis for travellers, Patrick Delebarre. The relocation of this area is now registered in the Departmental Traveler Reception System. But finding other land is complex, he underlines. – A “unique” mobilization – “Today the law requires that we put these people in healthy places”, while then “the way of seeing things was to say + the law requires us to put them in a corner, let’s put them in a corner +”. Northern travellers,” who are largely settled, he explains. The municipalities of Ronchin and Hellemmes are looking for land but “we don’t have many public building lots left” and there is a lack of space, says the municipality of Ronchin. For William Acker, jurist of the nomadic community, the struggle of women in this area, “among the worst” in France, is unique “even on a European scale”. “Usually, the fights go out very quickly, the public in the reception areas can’t afford to stand up to the administration head-on.” “Whether we like it or not, they’ve managed to sedentary us,” sums up Sue Ellen. “But they want us to be our own way. We also want our kids to have jobs later that make them want to get up in the morning.”bj/cab/cbn

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