Europe

Student poverty: French march in protest after suicide bid

Students gather inside the campus of Lyon 2 building in Lyon on November 12, 2019 during a demonstration called by French students union Solidaires days after a 22-year-old student set himself on fire over financial problems. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters gathered at the Lyon university attended by the student

Students have marched through cities across France to show solidarity with a student who attempted suicide on Friday.

The 22-year-old man set himself on fire after saying he faced severe financial difficulties, which he blamed on politicians and the European Union.

Students say his "desperate gesture" represents the current insecurity young people face in France.

He suffered 90% burns and is now in a critical condition hospital.

Since the incident in Lyon, the hashtag #laprécaritétue ("insecurity kills") has been trending on social media.

Hundreds of students gathered in Lyon and protests also took place in Paris and Lille, where former French President François Hollande was forced to cancel a planned conference.

Members of a student union at Lyon 2 University voted to block access to the campus by placing obstacles such as rubbish bins at the entrances. The university announced on social media that classes on Wednesday had been cancelled.

At the higher education ministry building in Paris, a group of protesters forced open the entrance gates and rushed into the courtyard overnight.

Inside, they began chanting and calling for the resignation of Higher Education Minister Frédérique Vidal. They left the site moments later when police officers arrived.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The phrase meaning "insecurity kills" was spray-painted on the higher education ministry in Paris

On Friday, the SUD-Éducation and Solidaires student unions spoke of the "precariousness" of "the life of the students".

They said the man's attempted suicide could not "be reduced to despair alone"

What happened to the student?

The 22-year-old set fire to himself in front of a university restaurant in Lyon.

The man posted on Facebook about his financial difficulties just hours before self-immolating in front of a university restaurant in Lyon.

He blamed President Emmanuel Macron, two of his predecessors, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the European Union for having "killed him".

The man, who was studying at Lyon 2 University, wrote on Facebook that he no longer had the strength to face the financial burden of living on €450 (£388) a month.

"Let us fight against the rise of fascism, which only divides us... and liberalism that creates inequalities," he wrote.

Referring to the location of the incident - in front of a busy university restaurant - he said he was "aiming for a political venue".

The man's girlfriend had alerted authorities after he informed her of his plan in a text message.

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