Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One issue has been conspicuously absent from the presidential campaign: the banlieues, the blighted housing projects on the peripheries of French cities. These relics of urban development programs from the 1960s and '70s were intended to offer modern housing for working-class and immigrant populations. Today, they provide a disenfranchised exile for France's socially and economically excluded. Nearly 4.5 million live in the banlieues, where unemployment averages around 25% and even the most basic services are decaying.

Take the Mirail neighborhood, a sprawling stretch of housing projects at the southern limits of Toulouse. Mirail's 42,000 residents have seen...

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