More than a thousand people gathered Saturday morning in Mamoudzou to renew their support for the security operation "Wuambushu" conducted by the authorities on the island of Mayotte and demand a halt to crime and illegal immigration.
"The citizen mobilization is important, it supports the action of elected officials who called this operation to claim our security and our freedom," Ambdilwahedou Soumaila, the mayor of the archipelago's capital, told AFP.
"Mamoudzou has the largest slum in France (Kawéni, editor's note) and we are not proud of this record. A slum is first of all sanitary and ecological insecurity, it is the indignity of the nation", he added.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has launched a series of operations, grouped under the name of Wuanbushu ("recovery" in Mauritanian), aimed at removing illegal migrants, mostly from neighboring Comoros, from the unsanitary slums of Mayotte.
Of the estimated 350,000 inhabitants of Mayotte, half do not have French nationality.
The operation also aims to fight against the delinquency that is rampant in the archipelago, largely attributed to the explosive social and economic situation of its slums.
"Wuambushu" is denounced as "brutal", "anti-poor" and violating the rights of migrants by many associations, but supported by elected officials and many islanders.
Saturday's rally, the second of the week, was organized in response to a call from a group of Moroccan citizens.
Many demonstrators, mostly women, wore T-shirts printed with slogans such as "Marshall Plan for Mayotte", "support the police", "Azali (Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, editor's note) take care of your population".
"We have to go to the metropolis to live a normal life, to have our right to go out in safety at night. We have been robbed of our youth and yet we are the future of Mayotte which has a lot of assets", said one of them, Moulaika Antoy, 18 years old, a student in BTS tourism.
In the crowd, Chafion Abdou, an activist of the Collectif des citoyens de Mayotte, from which the deputy Estelle Youssouffa (Liot) comes, supported the denunciation of illegal migrants.
"We have to stop with the mentality of +it's my brother I don't denounce him+", he defended. "There is a problem of responsibility in Mayotte with citizens who must stop providing proof of residence to these people and help our mayors to take a census".
The "Wuambushu" operation is taking place in a certain confusion: the justice system has suspended the demolition of a shantytown and the evictions are hampered by the suspension "until further notice" of the SGTM company's crossings between Mayotte and the Comorian island of Anjouan, despite the reopening of the Comorian ports.