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Diverse Marseille Spared in French Riots

Though France suffered three weeks of widespread rioting last month, one city was spared: the colorful southern port of Marseille. The city has one of France's highest concentrations of immigrants, but residents do not live in segregated communities and have a stronger sense of allegiance to the city than to the nation.

Of Marseille's 800,000 residents, 300,000 are of Italian origin, 200,000 are North African Arabs, 80,000 are Jewish and there are large communities of Comorans, Armenians, Turks, Vietnamese and Chinese.

Contrary to the rest of France, there are many non-white journalists in the media. The police force has many agents of North African origin. The ethnic neighborhoods are not isolated, but centrally located. The municipality also gives grants to associations that have some religious and ethnic affiliations.

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Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.