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The Comoros-France row: Only migrants with ID to be allowed disembarkation

Ship docked in the port of Mutsamudu in The Comoros, on April 27, 2023.   -  
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Cleared / AFP


Activities have resumed at the port of Mutsamudu on the island of Anjouan, in the Comoros archipelago. And The Comoros will allow boats arriving from Mayotte to dock once again.

The port had closed for work on Monday (Apr. 24). The docking suspension had come as French authorities on the neighbouring island of Mayotte were to start expulsing undocumented migrants while the Comoros slammed that plan and refused to accept the migrants.

The port authorities chief gave further details during a press conference Thursday (Apr. 27): "Up to now, we have not received any note prohibiting any arrival, of... We have not received any note from the state level. We'll only apply the law, the laws in force which we signed, meaning international and national regulations [...]." 

Operation Wuambushu [Editor's note: which means 'Take Back' in the local language]has triggered clashes between youths and security forces in the French department of Mayotte and fuelled political tensions between Paris and Moroni.

Mayotte is the fourth island of the Comoros archipelago, which was once a French territory.

Unlike the 3 other islands of the archipelago, France retained control over Mayotte after a 1974 referendum.

Port authorities chief saidi t was not his concern.

"The government, politics... that's not our concern, frankly", official Mohamed Said Salim Dahalani said. All I can say is that "in our law, in the way we enforce the law if a person comes in here, without an ID, they don't get out, they return to the boat."

What is Operation Wuambushu?

Some 1,800 members of the French security forces -- including hundreds from Paris -- have been deployed for Operation Wuambushu, which aims to improve living conditions and worsening insecurity for Mayotte locals.

But its start was delayed when a court in Mamoudzou ordered a last-minute halt to the clearance Tuesday (Apr.25) of a much larger slum in Koungou called Talus 2, a decision that is being appealed.

The operation also faces a political hurdle from the Comoros, whose three islands lie to the northwest of Mayotte.

The Union of the Comoros is refusing to accept people deported from Mayotte, saying it cannot cope with the influx.

Mayotte is France's poorest department with around 80 percent of the population living beneath the poverty line and high levels of social delinquency.

Since it enjoys the French infrastructure, support and welfare, this has encouraged an influx from the Union of the Comoros. Many migrants attempt the hazardous crossing on rickety boats used by smugglers.

Some residents have told AFP they support the idea of deportations, accusing migrants of fuelling insecurity.

Fatihou Ibrahime, who heads a citizens' association, said violence had increased on the island since 2015.

"It all started with petty theft, and we played it down, saying it was just hungry people stealing to survive," he said.

"But now we're at the point where there are murderers and people breaking and entering with machetes," he added, pointing to a scar on his head from a machete blow during a burglary.

Several hundred local people, most of them women, staged a rally Thursday at a stadium in the southern town of Chirongi, urging the government to intensify Operation Wuambushu.

They held up banners reading "Stop giving out residence permits" and "Thank you, heroes of the security forces".

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