• The Gyptis I is a building in the 3rd arrondissement of Marseille, formerly a student residence with 250 studios.
  • After several municipal and prefectural decrees for the safety and treatment of insalubrity, municipal and state services had to replace private owners to finally organize its evacuation.
  • During this one, a man obviously dead for days was found in his apartment.

Crouching on the sidewalk, his cap firmly pressed over his head, Farid smokes a cigarette. Up since 7 a.m. and the early arrival of dozens of police, social services and firefighters to evacuate his building, he waits there, between a suitcase on khaki green wheels and a large plastic and checkered moving bag. His entire life is contained there.

Like Farid, about twenty other people are still waiting on this piece of sidewalk for the departure of a bus to one of the four municipal gymnasiums mobilized by the town hall to carry out, with the services of the State, an assessment of the individual situation of these displaced people. The city will then have to offer them an accommodation solution, temporary or permanent.

Between sleep merchants and drug dealers

With their pile of belongings gathered in haste, these castaways of a poor housing endemic to certain districts of Marseille and maintained by economic misery look like refugees. We save what we can carry and what we imagine useful. Here an auxiliary heater placed on a blanket in its cover, there a fan next to a sleeping bag.

"We are treated like clandos," says Farid, who asks where he is going.

- "We're going to La Martine," says one of his former neighbors in the same situation as him.

- "Martine? It's the northern districts, that," he replies, indifferent, before getting on the bus a few minutes later. The municipal police opened the barrier that closed the street to traffic; the driver starts and Farid sticks his tired face on the window.

They were 137 (24 children, 83 men and 30 women) shortly before noon on Tuesday morning to have been evacuated from Gyptis I, a building of run-down properties of 250 housing units in the 3rd arrondissement of Marseille - that of Belle-de-Mai - one of the poorest in France. During the operation, the services discovered the body of a man, apparently dead for several days in his apartment on the 10th and last floor.

Estimated at 200 people, the exact count of the number of residents of this building made up of former student studios of 20 to 25 square meters, will probably be known only late. And for good reason: if some had rental contracts, others paid by hand their landlord, owner or other. Another part of the housing was squatted or occupied by drug traffickers who ran an upstairs outlet, adding to the socio-economic violence of dealers and conflicts between rival gangs. Last September, shootings and stabbings multiplied on the outskirts and as far as the interior of Gyptis, with at least one dead and several wounded.

"When I went out at night, my father would tell me to stay with friends," says Ilyes, 20, who shared a 10th-floor studio with her father. A second-year medical student, Ilyes is "happy to leave. It's better for safety," he explains. He attended the Timone campus, at the other end of the city. "It won't be more complicated to get there," says the young man who is waiting to see where they will be relocated. "We were notified 3-4 days ago of the evacuation." Enough to "rent a box and store our belongings", continues the one who lived in Gyptis for five years with a lease of the most legal.

According to the various testimonies collected, the rents of the studios were between 400 and 500 euros. Sometimes with authentic sleep merchant methods. "I used to pay 250 euros in tickets every month," says Adda, who shared the only room in the apartment with a stranger giving the same amount. Arriving from Algeria just six months ago, Adda has no papers. "That's the problem," he concedes. "I thought about leaving before the evacuation but to go where? I don't want to sleep outside again," worries this mason who, like other undocumented migrants in Marseille, finds his one-day jobs by doing the foot of a crane at dawn in front of building materials stores.

Mohamed, a 48-year-old Moroccan, has Italian papers. At Gyptis for four and a half years, his concern is about his furniture. "A TV, a microwave, a fridge," he says. He was assured that he could come back for them later, but he doesn't believe too much. Traffickers, this construction worker does not want to talk too much about it. "I go to work in the morning, come home at night and stay home. I stay in my place," he sums up.

What future for Gyptis?

The insalubrity of this building, infested with bed bugs, common areas that are seen copiously tagged, wild electrical bypasses and water leaks, had become frankly dangerous for its residents. Last year, "firefighters intervened 66 times", often for fire starts related to electrical installations, shows Patrick Amico, deputy housing of the mayor of Marseille who came on site with Laurent Carrié, prefect delegate for equal opportunities.

After several municipal and prefectural decrees of security and treatment of the insalubrity left dead letter by the syndic, the town hall had taken on February 16 a final order ordering the evacuation of the building before March 6. Trouble lost, the municipal and state services had to replace the private owners to carry it out and a judicial administrator was appointed to take the place of the trustee in the immediate future.

In the wake of the evacuation, the entrances will be walled up, and anti-intrusion devices deployed. The owners will then have to decide to undertake the heavy work necessary to make the building healthy and liveable. Otherwise, the public authorities, via the metropolis, could acquire the entire property.

  • Marseille
  • PACA
  • Poor housing
  • Society
  • Report
  • Evacuation
  • Building
  • Insalubrity
  • Drug trafficking