French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin leaves the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, 18 October 2023. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON


France acts over immigration clashes on Indian Ocean island Mayotte


The French Government will end granting birthright citizenship in Mayotte to make the overseas department less appealing to migrants following large-scale and violent clashes there.

The Élysée Palace made the announcement on February 11. In a radical departure of the country’s tradition, some people will in future be born in what is legally France but no longer be French.

The decision comes after social tensions have been brewing, resulting in local anger at mass migration in Mayotte.

Despite Mayotte – an archipelago in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique – being considered an integral part of France, Paris announced on February 11 the end of “birthright citizenship and territorialised visas”, as well as a “limitation of family reunification”.

France grants citizenship through both bloodline jus sanguinis and birthplace jus soli, although the latter  – “right of the soil” – legislation has been tightened severely over several years.

In December, the French Parliament approved an immigration bill that was reportedly agreed “under pressure” from the Right and made further restrictions possible.

Since January 22, Mayotte has seen protests against migration.

Angry inhabitants, organised into “citizen collectives”, put up roadblocks across Mayotte in the past few days, demanding the “expulsion of refugees”.

On February 11, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin visited the island with new Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories Marie Guévenoux to announce: “We are going to take a radical decision.

“It will no longer be possible to become French if you are not the child of a French parent,” Darmanin stated.

He said that would reduce “the attractiveness” of the archipelago to potential migrants, but would “necessitate a modification to the Constitution”.

Darmanin also referred to residence permits: “At the moment, the prefecture issues between 800 and 1,000 residence permits per month. We’re going to bring that number down by 80 per cent.”

He further promised to work on “improving order and justice” by announcing what is termed Operation Wuambushu 2, designed to battle “delinquency, organised crime and illegal immigration”.

The measures are in line with a recently approved immigration law. Although that was severely cut back by the courts, it allows for stricter policies to curb migration.

In France, reactions were mixed. Thomas Portes MP, of the hard-left La France Insoumise, said Darmanin was acting “as the mouthpiece of the far-right”.

“This is an attack on the indivisibility of the Republic and the equality of its citizens. By supporting this, [French President Emmanuel] Macron wants to re-establish a colonial regime,” he said.

“This is unacceptable. ”

Green MEP Marie Toussaint denounced what she called the difference in treatment between Mayotte and the rest of France, with “lives that are worth less than others, territories that could be treated less well”.

Socialist MP Aurélien Taché also took a jab at Macron, saying the President was following in the footsteps of the National Rally (RN): “I understand why Emmanuel Macron did not announce a programme during the presidential campaign, he actually had Marine Le Pen’s.”

On the Right, several politicians applauded the measures but wanted to apply them across the entire country.

In the presidential elections of 2022, Marine Le Pen of National Rally (RN) earned close to 60 per cent of the vote in Mayotte.

RN MP Kevin Mauvieux declared: “This is what Marine Le Pen has always proposed! An enormous amount of time has been lost, the situation of our compatriots in Mayotte has become unbearable.

“We can’t wait for 2027, so that we stop wasting so much time on such serious and important subjects.”

According to Éric Zemmour, the president of the nationalist Reconquest!, Darmanin’s move shows he “recognises that birthright citizenships a huge suction pump for the ‘immigration invasion’.

So, we have to get rid of it, he’s absolutely right but we can’t stop at Mayotte. It must be abolished throughout France.

“This is one of the major reasons why millions of Africans dream of coming to France so that their children are French,” Zemmour said.

“Birthright citizenship has become a major weapon of the invasion by Africa of France.”

Republicans’ leader Éric Ciotti reacted similarly: “What is happening in Mayotte is likely to affect metropolitan France tomorrow.

“Everywhere on the national territory we must abolish the birthright citizenship”

He further highlighted that around half of Mayotte’s inhabitants “are foreigners”.

Mansour Kamardine, an MP for Mayotte with Les Républicains, labelled the French move as  “necessary”.

“We have the feeling and sensation that the Government understands what is happening in Mayotte, at last,” he told FranceInfo.

Mayotte consists of two islands that in 1973 opted to remain a part of France. Other islands in the nearby archipelago sought independence and became the Comoros Islands.