• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The illegal migrants leaving 'paradise' for a slice of France
A Comoran beach. Photo: David Stanley, via Flickr

The illegal migrants leaving 'paradise' for a slice of France

AFP · 21 Feb 2016, 15:04

Published: 21 Feb 2016 15:04 GMT+01:00

Pregnant, she's ready to risk her life to make the clandestine journey across 70 kilometres (40 miles) of the Indian Ocean to the French overseas territory, where she wants to give birth.

Comoros goes to the polls on Sunday for the first round of its presidential election, with the struggling economy a key issue, but Aicha says she won't vote because "that won't change anything".

Instead, like many Comorans she has her sights set on Mayotte and plans toleave "before Ramadan," which starts in June.

But she still needs to find 500 euros ($550) for the trip. She has no work and her husband is a civil servant whose salary is in arrears.

While the massive flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and the Aegean to Europe has grabbed global headlines, illegal immigration from poor countries to prosperous ones takes place worldwide.

Among the island nations of the Indian Ocean, Mayotte, consisting of two main islands and numerous islets, is a major though little reported destination for migrants looking for a better life.

As a French overseas "department", Mayotte is considered part of the European Union member, and is more economically successful than neighbouring Comoros.

The gross domestic product of Mayotte is around 7,900 euros per person, compared with 725 euros in Comoros -- a former French colony that opted for independence rather than remaining part of France in 1975.

Many Comorans make the trip to Mayotte in their traditional fishing boat, the kwassa-kwassa, a short but perilous journey. Local police earlier this month recovered three bodies of would-be migrants.

 - 'Cemetery for Comorans' -

Aicha has slipped into Mayotte illegally several times before. She gave birth there to her two oldest children, who have French birth certificates but not yet nationality and currently live in Comoros.

Every time she goes, she gets expelled. And each time, she returns.

"I want to go to Mayotte so my baby will have a French birth certificate and to give my children a better education. I can do housework. Here that pays nothing," she said in her shack on the island of Moroni.

The number of people from Comoros, and also Madagascar, living illegally in Mayotte "could be several tens of thousands," according to the French government auditor.

One top candidate in Sunday's poll, Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi, told AFP that "Mayotte will always be an option as long as there is no free circulation of goods and people" among the islands of the archipelago.

"There will always be frustration and this area of the sea will remain a cemetery for Comorans."

Story continues below…

Zainaba, who acts as an intermediary for the operators transporting the illegal migrants, lost a friend two months ago in the sinking of a kwassa-kwassa, but is still determined to send her son to the French island where he was born.

Children born in Mayotte to foreign parents automatically get French nationality at age 18 if they reside in French territory at that date and live there for at least five years on a continuous basis.

"If I find two or three clients, they will take my son for free," she said.

But getting there is only half the battle. Authorities in Mayotte are on the lookout for illegal arrivals to send them back -- nearly 20,000 migrants were made to leave in 2014.

 

Today's headlines
France tells UK to hurry up and get on with EU divorce
Photo: AFP

"Don't waste any time," France tells UK. "We don't want anymore uncertainty."

French police hold 10 after raids on luxury Paris stores
Photo: AFP

Have French police solved a series of armed raids of luxury boutiques?

New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Photo: ByeBye Crottoir

No need to watch your step anymore, says this French engineer behind a new app called "Bye Bye Pavement Dog Poo"

Calls in France for English to be ditched as EU language
Photo: AFP

Some in France suggest it's time to end the dominance of English as the EU's working language, now that the UK has voted to leave the union.

Seven tips for selling your house in France
Photo: AFP

After the Brexit referendum there is already talk of British expats in France considering selling up. Here are seven tips put together by an expert.

British businesses in France told to keep calm and carry on
Brits celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday at the British embassy in Paris. Photo: UK in France/Flickr

Brits running their own businesses have been told that despite the Brexit vote, it should be "business as usual".

Paris thieves pilfer luxury watches worth €3 million
Photo: AFP

Another multi-million robbery in the chic heart of Paris.

Price of Paris monthly transport pass to rise
Photo: AFP

Commuting in Paris is set to get pricier.

Opinion - Brexit
Why a Brexit would be a 'windfall' for France
Photo: AFP

A Brexit wouldn't mean the "apocalypse" the doomsdayers are predicting, it would actually be a "tremendous opportunity" for France.

Post Brexit: Paris and London vow to cooperate not compete
Sadiq Khan and Anne Hidalgo vow to work together. Photo: AFP

The mayors of Paris and London have vowed to work together in order to shape the 21st century.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
2,730
jobs available