After the January terror attacks in Paris, France is still on high alert -- but some of the police officers who are supposed to protect the nation are not.
French media outlets quoted police union member Nicolas Comte as saying that the officers were "fed up" with their mission of patrolling in front of vulnerable sites such as synagogues day after day. "They are worried that they won't be able to keep this pace over time," Comte said. The riot police officers are not allowed to go on strike, which is why they chose to call in sick instead.
Speaking to French radio station Europe 1 at the beginning of March, French police expert Jean-Hugues Matelly said: "The men are tired and this fatigue keeps accumulating. ... The risk is that this will lead to a lack of vigilance, which means that when a real attack comes, we are not reactive and therefore unable to stop it." Instead of patrolling in front of vulnerable buildings, the affected police officers want to spend more time with exercises to prepare for potential terror plots in the future.
Speaking to radio station RTL, Christian Barcouda, a ranking official of a police union in southern France, described the dire state of the affected police officers. "A psychological fatigue has accumulated among many colleagues which has led to a deterioration of their mental health," he said. According to Barcouda, some officers have stood guard for two weeks without having days off.
After the attacks in January, the French government had started the Vigipirate program which is a nation-wide system that places police and other authorities on high alert to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
Since then, about 10,500 soldiers and 1,000 riot police officers have patrolled nearly 800 sensitive sites -- among them many buildings that belong to the French Jewish community.
According to French radio network France Info, the program could be extended until the beginning of this summer. However, some say that the cost of the program is not worth its benefit: From January until the beginning of March, it had mounted to more than $1 billion.
After the attacks which had targeted the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, French President François Hollande had vowed to protect the Jewish community in the country.
According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 10 percent of French citizens have an unfavorable opinion of Jews in general. Whereas the study found an alarming presence of anti-Semitism as well as anti-Muslim attitudes all over the continent, tensions were particularly high in France. According to estimates by the Isareli government, about 7,000 Jews left France in 2014.
However, even leaving France might be more difficult than some would expect: On Wednesday, 40 percent of all flights had to be cancelled due to a strike of the country's air controllers and staffing shortages.