Marseille Scraps Plan to Require Homeless to Wear Yellow Triangles

Program to assist homeless creates uproar due to the similarity to yellow Stars of David forced on Jews by the Nazis.

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A protester holds a sign equating the Marseille triangle with those worn by Nazi prisoners during WWII.
A protester holds a sign equating the Marseille triangle with those worn by Nazi prisoners during WWII.Credit: AFP

Officials in Marseille, France's second largest city, have been forced to scrap a project requiring homeless people to wear yellow triangles pinned to their clothing after a public uproar.

Cards bearing the triangle had been introduced as part of an initiative to assist the homeless by making their medical information easily accessible to health workers in an emergency, the Independent reported.

But for many people, the bright yellow IDs were far too similar to the Star of David that Jews were compelled to wear by the Nazis before and during World War II.

Government ministers joined human rights groups in attacking the innovation. Christophe Louis, president of homeless charity Collectif Morts de la Rue, described the cards as “scandalous” and “stigmatizing.”

“Wearing something that shows the whole world what illnesses you have is not only discriminating but it also breaches all medical confidentiality,” he added.

The French minister for social affairs, Marisol Touraine, said she was “shocked.”

“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,” she told Le Parisien.

“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.”

About 150 cards were distributed before Marseille’s local council suspended the program.

“It’s finished. There won’t be any more cards,” the head of social and medical emergency services René Giancarli told The Local.

“We never meant to cause any harm or trigger a controversy, but it happened,” he said, adding the cards had been stopped on the orders of the city’s mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin.

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