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French city nixes ‘Nazi’ badge for homeless

Marseille scraps plan forcing street dwellers to wear ID card with yellow triangle, which critics say is reminiscent of Star of David

Arnaud, a homeless man, wears a "security badge" during a demonstration in front of the City Hall of Marseille, southern France, on December 3, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)
Arnaud, a homeless man, wears a "security badge" during a demonstration in front of the City Hall of Marseille, southern France, on December 3, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

The southern French city of Marseille abandoned a controversial plan to force its homeless residents to wear a badge to identify themselves.

The proposed ID card, which prominently features a yellow triangle, was compared by critics to badges Nazi Germany forced Jews to wear.

According to the British newspaper The Independent on Friday, city authorities wanted the homeless to wear the badges, laminated cards which list the bearer’s personal and medical details, in an effort to make them more easily identifiable and thus to provide more adequate medical treatment for them.

Critics, however, slammed city officials for a move that was seen as strongly insensitive and a violation of human rights.

“This is scandalous, it’s stigmatizing,” Christophe Louis, president of the homeless charity Collectif Morts de la Rue, told The Local on Thursday.

A Jewish star badge from France (Courtesy Yad Vashem)
A Jewish star badge from France (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine also criticized the plan, telling the Le Parisien newspaper: “Forcing homeless people to carry a yellow triangle indicating the illnesses they might have is outrageous. You don’t point the finger at the poorest.

“You don’t write their illnesses on their clothes. Medical confidentiality, in particular, is a fundamental right. I want this local initiative to be stopped,” Touraine added.

Demonstrators on Wednesday protested the distribution of the badges outside Marseille’s city hall, deriding the decision as unjust and making allusions to discriminatory measures forced upon Jews under Nazi Germany.

A demonstrator holds a sign in front of the City Hall of Marseille, southern France, on December 3, 2014, during a demonstration against a "security badge" distributed to homeless people in Marseille. (photo credit: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)
A demonstrator holds a sign in front of the City Hall of Marseille, southern France, on December 3, 2014, during a demonstration against a “security badge” distributed to homeless people in Marseille. (photo credit: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

Over 100 badges had been distributed to the homeless dwellers of France’s second city renowned for its beauty and Mediterranean coastline.

Xavier Mery, one of the city’s deputy mayors, had earlier refuted the protesters’ allegations in a statement published Friday by the British newspaper The Telegraph: “I am appalled by the absurd controversy surrounding this help card distributed by [France’s medical emergency service] SAMU.”

SAMU chief, René Giancarli, admitted to “not seeing this row coming,” but vowed to continue the procedure through less controversial means.

“We are going to change the look of this card,” Giancarli said on Friday. “Our aim was only to come to the aid of the destitute as efficiently as possible.”

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