The World Today for May 08, 2023


Eldorado’s Slums


French authorities have dispatched more than 1,800 police officers and gendarmes as well as 500 prosecutors, social workers, and others to the island of Mayotte, a French territory lying between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique. Called “Operation Wuambushu”, or “take back” in the local Maore tongue, the security forces’ deployment is part of a crackdown on immigration that stirred controversy in Europe and throughout the Indian Ocean.

As the Local explained, French officials want to move thousands of illegal immigrants from Mayotte to nearby Comoros, an archipelago nation that is the origin for many of the migrants who have come to Mayotte over the years. Protests recently sprung up in Paris against the policy. But the response closer to the island has been more serious. Migrants have clashed with police in Mayotte. In Comoros, leaders have told French leaders that they will refuse to accept the expelled immigrants, reported Punch, a Nigerian news magazine.

Half of Mayotte’s population of around 350,000 people are foreigners. Most are Comoran. Three islands form Comoros, a sovereign nation that was formerly a French colony. Mayotte is the fourth island in the chain but is now considered a French department, or state. Its infrastructure has benefits as a result. “Boasting schools, hospitals, roads, and a social safety net, Mayotte is an eldorado that every year thousands of impoverished Comorans risk their lives trying to reach,” wrote Agence France-Presse.

Madagascans are among those who undertake the journey, too, often at great peril. Speaking to the BBC, human rights activists described the lagoon around the island as an “open-air graveyard.” The promise of moving to Mayotte and potentially becoming a French citizen, however, lures people to the country.

Residents of Mayotte heartily support France’s moves to stop the influx. A mass demonstration in favor of the crackdown recently occurred in Mamoudzou, the territory’s capital. Their support reflects how crime has increased on the island recently, including a 16 percent increase in murders last year and a 30 percent spike in violent thefts, according to French officials, the Jurist added.

“The citizen mobilization is important, it supports the action of elected officials who called this operation to claim our security and our freedom,” Mamoudzou’s mayor Ambdilwahedou Soumaila told Agence France-Presse. “Mamoudzou has the largest slum in France. We are not proud of this record. A slum is first of all (promoting) sanitary and ecological insecurity, it is the indignity of the nation.”

Late last month, a court in Mayotte ordered French authorities to pause Operation Wuambushu on civil liberties grounds, Al Jazeera noted. The authorities vowed to appeal.

Justice, prosperity, and borders don’t necessarily overlap.

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