“Should we question social rights in Mayotte?”

MAINTENANCE – Mayotte has been shaken for ten days by inter-district conflicts of rare violence. According to the former Secretary General of the Ministry of Immigration, the island’s geography and social regime have made it a “magnet” for some foreigners, contributing to chronic insecurity.

Patrick Stefanini is Honorary State Counselor and former Secretary General of the Ministry of Immigration. He recently published Immigration: these realities that are hidden from us (Robert Laffont, 2020). He was also campaign manager for Valérie Pécresse.

LE FIGARO. – Mamoudzou, the largest city in the French department of Mayotte, has been shaken for ten days by inter-district conflicts which left one dead on November 12 and several injured. How to explain the chronic insecurity in Mayotte?

Patrick STEFANINI. – Mayotte has been the scene of extremely strong illegal immigration for years. Of all the overseas departments and territories, it is by far in Mayotte that migratory pressure is the strongest. It comes almost entirely, if not entirely, from the Comoros archipelago, of which Mayotte was historically part until the independence of the Comoros. The Comorian coasts are close to the Mahoran coasts of Mayotte, hence this considerable migratory pressure. Successive governments have tried to strengthen the means of the police, the gendarmerie, radars have been installed to monitor the coasts but the attraction of the legal and social regime of Mayotte prevailed over any other consideration, until there is two years.

Comorian women could come and give birth at the Mamoudzou maternity hospital. Their child then automatically obtained French nationality, and these mothers benefited from a special status allowing them to remain on French territory; it then paved the way for the acquisition of French nationality.

In 2018, an LREM senator from Mayotte, Thani Mohamed Soilihi, had a legislative amendment adopted which made it possible to make the acquisition of French nationality subject to the requirement that at least one of the parents of the child born in Mayotte had been in a regular situation on French territory at the time of birth, and this for more than three months. His family, politicians, like Sébastien Lecornu and Gérald Darmanin had expressed during the presidential election campaign, their desire to extend this requirement for the duration of presence in a regular situation on the territory of Mayotte by the father or the mother of a French child.

When figures circulate in the media on the number Obligations to leave French territory, the OQTFs, they always concern the metropolis. Because in Mayotte, the rate of expulsion of foreigners in an irregular situation is almost as high as that of all the rest of the national territory (Editor’s note, more than 23,000 deported to the border in 2021). The volumes are considerable. And then, the government of the Comoros is more or less cooperative in taking back its illegal immigrants, it sometimes makes little effort.

If the structural factors are not tackled, it is likely that the economic and social situation will continue to deteriorate.

Patrick Stefanini

It is also necessary to add the fact that the statute of Mayotte evolved in 2001. This new statute envisaged that in 10 years, Mayotte would become a department of full exercise and would thus be responsible for the social assistance, the social action. We can see the effects today: this department has become particularly attractive to the foreign population. The combination of geographical proximity and a very favorable social regime makes Mayotte a real magnet for part of the population of the Comoros.

Emmanuel Macron pledged on Wednesday to provide “a security response as soon as possible” in the overseas department. Is this enough to stem the spiral of violence?

There were clashes between rival gangs with machetes, settling of scores, riots… The State chose to send the Raid to the scene and a massive mobilization of law enforcement to restore calm . But compared to the two structural reasons that I analyzed earlier, namely the departmentalization of Mayotte for ten years is a factor of attraction for a very important foreign population.

Illegal immigration to Mayotte is facilitated by its history and geography. In addition, the legislation which made it possible, until recently, to obtain very easily the acquisition of French nationality for the parents of children born at the Mamoudzou maternity hospital, which has contributed to increasing this migratory phenomenon. If the structural factors are not tackled, it is likely that the economic and social situation will continue to deteriorate.

Perhaps even more drastic measures are needed. For example, one can imagine going back to jus soli as François Baroin had envisaged when he was overseas minister.

Patrick Stefanini

During the presidential campaign, Valérie Pécresse had proposed to abolish land rights in Mayotte and Guyana if she won the election. Can this solution improve the situation on site?

The bill, which has become law, by Mayotte Senator Thani Mohamed Soilihi shows that the presidential majority is aware of the problem. But perhaps even more drastic measures are needed. For example, one can imagine going back to jus soli as François Baroin had envisaged when he was overseas minister. One thing is certain: migratory pressure has profoundly destabilized the island’s economy and its social balance.

Are the means put in place sufficient? Isn’t there also a deficit of public services?

It is likely that the population growth rate, particularly among the foreign population (Editor’s note, according to INSEE, the share of the foreign population on the island is 49%, or 123,000 people), with a very large number of people in an irregular situation among them, has taken many public services by the throat and complicates their task.

We should probably discuss with the authorities of the Comoros to get out of the crisis. But the difference in standard of living, income perspective, between the Comoros – one of the poorest countries in the world – and Mayotte is such that this territory continues to attract foreigners.

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