An Inside Look At The Provocative City Of Marseille’s Drug Traffic

How French President Emmanuel Macron declared war on Marseille’s drug traffic.

The city of Marseille
The city of Marseille. Photo by Ray Tiller on Unsplash

Marseille is a double-sided city: luxurious restaurants, nightclubs, and jetsetters on one side; housing projects, and drug trafficking on the other. As many people would agree, this seaside city is sectioned into two distinct neighborhoods: a very rich south, and a very poor north. The war on this city’s drug traffic has gone on for a very long time, and sadly the situation keeps deteriorating. French President Emmanuel Macron recently visited Marseille to address this crisis.

“The cancer that is eating away at the city is drugs.”

Cocaine is one of the main drugs in Marseille
Cocaine is one of the main drugs in Marseille. Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash

Cannabis and cocaine are the main drugs being trafficked in Marseille, and they often originate from overseas. “We have located approximately 140 trade locations all over the city; however, the actual number could be much higher,” states a policeman from that region. With drug trafficking comes violence as many traffickers purchase firearms to ensure their survival. Since June 16th, at least 16 deaths were recorded according to France3, and the causes varied: kidnapping, torture, burned in the trunk of a car…etc. In the last 20 years, victims of this invincible enemy have become younger, particularly, the last known casualty was an 8-year-old. Journalist Philippe Pujol declares, “Traffickers also choose young people to deal in order not to pay them much,” and adds that “there are 2,000 juveniles dealing in Marseille.” The drug trafficking business in this city brings between 10 and 15 million euros per month. “We arrest someone everyday for possession and usually they have between 600 and 800 euros worth of drugs on them,” says a local policeman. The youth in these neighborhoods are somewhat condemned to repeating the same errors of the past. They are trapped in a circle of social violence; some get out, while some are too impoverished to do so.

As President Macron said, “The cancer that is eating away at the city is drugs.” With more neighborhoods engulfed by this issue, the only solution is to “show our muscles and shoot the competitors,” explains the French journalist, Xavier Monnier.

“We won’t give up.”

President Macron promises an additional help of 200 officers
President Macron promises an additional help of 200 officers. Photo by ev on Unsplash

As opposed to Paris where drug trafficking typically occurs on the outskirts of the city, Marseille’s core issue is that the most precarious suburbs are located within the city, therefore not leaving the choice for locals to be surrounded by drugs or not. “Since the beginning of the summer, my daughter has been afraid to go out. She hears these horrible stories happening all around the city, so it scares her, and I don’t blame her,” explains Sabine, 49. The inhabitants feel abandoned by the government, as they have repeatedly asked the police force to act to respond with a solution, but what do they expect? The policemen are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. President Macron has promised the installation of 500 surveillance cameras, and 200 additional police officers by the end of 2022 to relieve the pressure. These measures were put into place because “the residents of the neighborhoods demand the right to live in peace and security,” states the French president. However, according to a survey conducted by CSA for a French journal, 65% of the French do not trust Macron to improve the situation.

When Macron visited Marseille last spring, he stated that “those who buy drugs finance and arm murderers.” This war has gone on for too long and claim far too many victims. The crime rate in Marseille is directly linked to the urban poverty, which affects families and children. On the other side of drug traffickers are families trying to survive in a dangerous environment. Karine Sabourin – a judge in Marseille since 2012 – declares that eradicating drug trafficking starts “through school, education, parents, it goes through vocational training, through insertion, through employment, these are social and economic measures that go far beyond the judicial framework and the police framework.”

Marseille has always been known as one of the melting pots of France (with Paris of course), attracting people from every social and economic background. However, today it is basking in a hostile atmosphere, threatening the sense of security families, locals and tourists wish to feel. The French government has a lot of work to do in order to reestablish a sense of complacency in this southern city.

The war on drugs has gone on for a long time
The war on drugs has gone on for a long time. Image by Hubert de Thé from Pixabay

Eve McGuardian


Eve was born and raised in NYC and later on, moved to Paris. She grew up in an international home and is fluent in both French and English. Every chance she gets, she travels; either to discover a new culture or as a volunteer in an organization. The most memorable cities she has been to are: Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples for the people, Istanbul for the culture, and Paris for the architecture.

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