Hell on an exotic island

Illegal mass immigration destroys an oceanic paradise.

For several weeks now, the military-police Operation "Wuambushu" [the Shimaore language word for "recovery"], the drive to liquidate the slums of the island Mayotte, has been headlined in the French media. Slums? But what slums? Mayotte is a picture-postcard Indian Ocean island located between mainland Africa and Madagascar. Looked at from a bird's eye view, its outline resembles that of a seahorse. Its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, tropical forest and abundant nature serve to attract tourists from all over the world.

However, this arcadia of beaches, jungle, exoticism, historic mosques, colorful costumes and amiable wild life, seemingly taken direct from the animated film "Madagascar", has somehow managed in a matter of just one decade to have turned into a hell. Its embiterred and angry residents, usually so calm, are up in arms. How did this come to it?

To start with, let’s take a very quick glance at the island’s geographical location and its history. It will be enlightening since even most French people are unable to locate France's 101st department on the map. Many are unaware that the island actually belongs to France.

Located north-west of Madagascar, the small island is part of the Comoros archipelago and covers an area of 374 km2. It is a little bigger than Usedom and a little smaller than Wolin [both Baltic Sea islands]. A part of the African-Islamic Swahili-language zone known in the 19th century as the "islands of warlike sultans", the islands of Comoros have been the theater of various local conflicts for centuries.

In 1841, Andriantsoly, the last king of Mayotte, reached the conclusion that he was unable to stand up to his rivals from Moheli, Anjouan or the Grand Comore any longer, and so he decided to look for a protector. Since the Comorian and Malagasy sultanates enjoyed the support of the English, he sought protection from their rivals, the French, who also had a presence in the region. The July Monarchy of Louis Philippe I was more than happy to seize the opportunity and to purchase the island. The price was reasonable, only a thousand piastres, and the transaction was carried out on behalf of France by Pierre Passo, a naval officer with the rank of captain.

The result was the introduction of French-style order to the island. France proceeded to abolish slavery (half of the population was freed in exchange for compensation), sugar cane plantations were established, a series of administrators were installed and several kilometers of paved road were constructed. This is where France's symbolic involvement ended for the time being.

Moreover, for the Mahoran people, it was a case of true love at first sight. Up until this day, the desire to remain a part of France has not weakened among the island's people at all, a phenomenon almost without precedent. Perhaps the case of Puerto Rico applying for incorporation into the United States offers some similarity. Or there's example of the The Lizard Union of Prussian nobles and knights [established in Culmerland in 1397] that sought the transfer of Culmerland from the Teutonic Order to Poland.

Mayotte has never experienced any significant independence, separatist or decolonization movements. On the contrary: when a referendum was held in the Comoros archipelago in December 1974, the majority of the inhabitants of Mayotte voted to remain under French rule (63.8%), whereas the other islands of the archipelago, which had been colonized half a century later, overwhelmingly voted 95% for independence.

In the case of Mayotte, the prospect of separation from France unnerved the inhabitants to the extent that when a further referendum was held in February 1976, a combination of pro-French lobbying and anti-Comorian mobilization resulted in a 99.4% pro-French result.

Admittiedly, following World War II, during a time of euphoria when moves to embrace decolonizationn were being promoted and supported by the Soviets and Americans, various international institutions and the entire progressive world, the Mayotte attitude stood out as unique. A majority of UN General Assembly members favour those countries that were once colonies of the European powers. The Assembly has repeatedly condemned France, and Mayotte remains on the black list of the UN Special Committee of Decolonization. This attitude can be directly linked to a time when the term "bwana" [Swahili for "master"] whether from Moscow, Washington or Geneva implied knowing what was "good for a poor black man".

Over the next few decades there were constant political battle as the Mahoran elites sought to tighten the island's ties with Metropolitan France. This, and especially the demand of granting Mayotte the status of a department on an equal footing with the other hundred departments, met with widespread misunderstanding and indifference on the part of the majority of the French political class. The status of TOM (French: territoire d'outre-mer), i.e. an overseas territory, although more favorable from an economic point of view (including the lack of absurd Brussels norms that would hamper development), was viewed by Mahoran with suspicion since it might mark a step towards an unwanted independence. Finally, in 2011, Mayotte became one of the five overseas departments of France.

Why, then, rather than being portrayed as an idyllic picture from a travel agency commercial, are we seeing TV broadcast news clips showing police cordons and bulldozers in action? Why is that an island, which compared to its neighbors has all the possible advantages, has deteriorated into a hell on earth?

It is undeniable that for last deacade or two, life in Mayotte has become much less idyllic. The rise in crime, a lack of basic security, the implosion of infrastructures into every aspect of life -- all of the foregoing has served to paralyze normal life.

When an average Mahoran describes his daily nightmare (fellow citizens in Metropolitan France usually have no idea what an islander goes through each day), his account is shocking and often unbelievable.

A Mahoran starts the day by checking if the water is running from the tap. This seemingly basic utility that France provides to all its overseas territories is becoming increasingly scarce. After morning prayer (almost the entire population of the island, apart from a handful of European mzungu i.e. whites, are practicing Muslims), Mahorans routinely check on the Internet if it is safe to commute to work or to drop the children off at school.

These days, bands of teenagers, mostly minors, sometimes no more than children, roam the island, armed with machetes, clubs and stones. They attack passing drivers, throw stones at their vehicles, and stage ambushes by barricading bends on the road with felled trees. To counteract these hazards, there are special applications for smartphone drivers that, instead of signaling traffic jams and radars, inform where ambushes are located along the way.

In addition to commuting drivers, farmers, farmland owners and entrepreneurs are also targeted. When their businesses come under pressure they often simply abandon them. Acts of violence are often concentrated on specific geographical areas. When those the islanders call "terrorists" intimidate and drive away land and/or property owners, they create encampments and later slums in the places that have been vacated and abandoned. Inaccessible to the police, these areas become lawless zones and a base for organized crime. That's right -- those slums whose demolition is currently being shown on TV, were not built on no-man's land.

What is happening in Mayotte is more than "classic" poverty crime, and represents more than Mafia-style activity. The violence has evolved from petty theft for survival to barbaric rape, and even includes acts of torture. More often, ordinary robbery aside, there is an aspect of brutality in evidence: victims are hacked with machetes, limbs are severed, they are horribly mutilated and left on the side of the road for all to see, in order to terrorise the population. "It's no longer a crime, it's a barbarity," says Estelle Youssouffa, an independent MP from the island, adding that "virtually every family here is in mourning" because they have someone who has been the victim of violence.

It is difficult for a Cartesian European to understand the sense of such actions until they are explained in a broader, political context, which we will discuss in a moment.

While the lack of basic security is undoubtedly the primary problem for the daily existence of the Mayotte inhabitants, the second, no less onerous burden stems from overloaded demands on infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewage systems, energy networks, etc. This demand simply cannot be met despite the billions pumped by Metropolitan France.

The same is true of the public service sector. Health, education, social care, justice and housing are struggling to cope with a record-breaking population and are on the verge of imploding, leading to such social tensions as the general strike that paralyzed the island in 2018.

It is a landscape like that of a third world country exposed to post-war anarchy, yet there has been no war here... All these negative phenomena have basically one cause: illegal mass immigration has spoiled the oceanic paradise and turned it into a living hell.
Mayotte. Image from Earth orbit, from the International Space Station. Photo: Nasa/Zuma Press/Forum
Is it a conspiracy theory? Not at all. This is exactly how the local population sees it. For people of Mayotte, used to many inconveniences and patiently waiting for Metropolitan France’s investments, this proved to be the last drop. Immigration is like a tsunami, it floods and destroys everything. If anyone thinks this is propaganda exaggeration, they should take a look at the hard data and facts.

The unprecedented migration crisis facing Mayotte is most telling in numbers. INSEE, i.e. the French Central Statistical Office, states that the island has a population of 387,000. inhabitants, half of whom are foreigners. Of those -- 95% are illegal immigrants from the Comoros. It's as if Poland had 15-20 million foreigners!

In reality the situation is even worse since the official figures represent an underestimate. Calculating imports of rice or the level of water consumption, one concludes that the population has exceeded half a million. During the lockdown, the prefect of the island forgot to bite his tongue when he claimed to have provided 450 million masks "one for each adult". With half the population under age 20, a more accurate count could yet turn out to be even more spectacular -- revealing at least 150,000 more illegal immigrants lacking any administrative status than is commonly believed.

Given that the island had 3,000 inhabitants at the time France took it over (half of them slaves), and that the total had reached a mere 40,000 by the time independence was rejected in 1974, the scale of the demographic explosion is impressive. More amazing is the fact that it is the work not only of the indigenous population, but also of illegal immigration.

The mechanism itself is easy to understand: it's like a magnet and iron filings -- a strong magnet and lots of iron filings. The overseas department of France, even poorer than Metropolitan France itself, has a much higher standard of living than its neighbors. Even in crises, Mayotte residents still have better access to education, health, infrastructure and employment opportunities. This attracts migrants seeking a better life.

Mayotte's doom is its geographical location. One of the archipelago's four islands, it exists in the shadow of the other three that form the state currently known as the Union of the Comoros.

  One of the world's poorest countries, for half a century the Comoros has been shaken by coups, putsches and secessions, which have occurred on one island or another, whether manipulated by Western mercenaries or South African regimes, or militarily invaded by the Organization of African Unity. The state known as the Comoros has changed governments as often as it has changed its official name and flag. Its GDP is grotesque, with a quarter of its national income accounted for by remittances from the diaspora.

It is even possible that the combined number of Comorians residing in Mayotte and the French island of Réunion and Marseille exceeds the actual population of the Comoros, which numbers one million. Throw in systemic corruption at the highest levels, along with mass trading in passports, flag of convenience, etc. and you have almost a prototype of one of the countries so rudely referred to by Donald Trump as "shitholes ".

Given the short distance between Mayotte and the Comoros (some 70 kilometers), crossing borders is relatively easy here. All you need is a boat and a bit of luck in the rarely patrolled territorial waters. Illegal immigrant smuggling is a major economic activity. Sixty to eighty Comorians arrive daily in the French paradise island on vessels commonly called kwassa kwassa ["an unstable boat” in the local language].

What distinguishes illegal immigration from the Comoros to Mayotte from the flows to such European counterparts as the Canary Islands, Lampedusa or across the Aegean Sea is the greater number of women, many of in a state of advanced pregnancy. Comorian women come to Mayotte in order to give birth. They do so attracted not only by the safer sanitary conditions that reduce the risk of deaths in childbirth, but also because a child born in Mayotte acquires a passport to a better life.

French nationality law is historically based on the principles of jus soli [Latin for "right of soil"]. French citizenship is acquired not only by inheritance, but by the mere fact of being born on French territory.

After a series of legal restrictions in the 1990s, nowadays, seemingly, a child on reaching the age of 13 can choose his/her citizenship. Up until then, the child lives in a legal vacuum, along with its parents. They, as illegal immigrants have no claim to the right of residence yet, as parents of a potential French citizen, they cannot be subject to deportation.

Whether viewed as an absurdity or a legal loophole, this is enough to paralyze the migration system and prevent deportations.

This applies not only to newborns, but also to slightly older children who are declared as their sons/daughters by French or Comorian citizens with legal residence in Mayotte. Paternity in France is simply declared at the office, without any tests. Some "fathers" have dozens of such "children" from many women.

Moreover, a large proportion of these children are abandoned after birth, once their mothers or fathers have obtained the coveted status of being "non-deportable". It is estimated that there are six to eight thousand such children in Mayotte. Most live in slums, growing up without any reference to ethical norms. Once they enter their teens they become cannon fodder for barbarian gangs terrorizing the island.

The fertility rate in Mayotte is 4.16. Among Comorian women it is over 5.0. The high birth rate and adult immigration are significant factors in shaping the demographic modification of the population. Paris is trying to protect itself from this flood of "legal illegal" immigrants emanating from the Comoros, Madagascar, continental Africa, and more recently even Yemen, by introducing a residence card of a territorial nature, which gives newcomers the right to stay only in Mayotte, and not in Metropolitan France. However, it is little more than a patch on the prosthesis. The effect of the mass invasion is the aforementioned paralysis of infrastructures.

A large influx of immigrants places a greater burden on the healthcare system that has to deal with more patients. The lack of sufficient resources and medical personnel limits access to needed medical services for the local community. The only hospital in Mayotte is in fact one huge maternity ward that tends to monopolize medical practice on the island. For example, foreign women can give birth in comfortable conditions, but when it comes to obtaining the services of an ophthalmologist native Mahorans have to fly elsewhere.

It's the same with housing: migrant population growth requires additional social housing, the lack of which leads to overcrowding and alternative solutions that result in illegal encampments and slums, lawless zones, outbreaks of disease and hotbeds of banditry.

On a small island, locals lose their livelihoods as their fields turn into slums and local governments run out of space for social housing, driving property prices up. A protected tropical forest cannot simply be cleared away. Of course, immigrants do not care about such bans. Plantations flourish on the plots created illegally in the jungle and in the fields forcibly taken from local farmers. Such desperate measures fuel the gray economy and provide a lucrative source of income for the local Mafia.

Mass immigration is similarly catastrophic for education. Schools have to cope with an increased number of school-age immigrants, including native-borns, which in turn adds to the need for additional teachers, classrooms and teaching materials. With 80 % of the students coming from the Comoros, local government officials calculate that mass immigration and the galloping demographics of newcomers mean that a new school would have to be opened every week.

The more pupils in a class, the more negative the impact on the quality of teaching. Schools are forced to operate in shifts and that disrupts the lives of families. Moreover, students coming from the Comoros, often sent by desperate families for whom this offers their only way to provide their children with a minimum of education, are totally illiterate. Often, at primary schools, along Mahoran ten-year-olds, it is not uncommon to come across Comorians with facial hair, the so-called "bearded children".

Faced with such a crisis, many islanders prefer to send their children to schools in Réunion or Metropolitan France. There, at least, they are not exposed to daily acts of aggression such as the attacks by machete-wielding gangs who lay sieges to high schools. The everyday sight of a policeman standing in front of a school's entrance comes as no surprise to anyone.

It's also worth mentioning the paralysis of the judicial system that makes it so difficult for Mahorans to assert their rights. The courts are drowning in a flood of asylum and residency cases brought by left-wing lawyers on behalf of illegal immigrants. In the prisons, 80% of those jailed are Comorians.

Many local politicians point out that illegal immigration and the resulting chaos cannot simply be attributed to the outcome of spontaneous processes but claim they are the result of deliberate political action. Whose? It is not difficult to guess: there is only one country in the region that has an interest, motive and means -- the aforementioned Comoros.

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There is no need to guess anyway, because this is also the official narrative of the Comorian political class. President Azali Assoumani, received with honors at the Elysée Palace, openly declares that Mayotte is a Comorian territory occupied by France.

However, mass immigration reflects not only envy and a form of revenge arising from Mayotte's remaining with France. It is also seen as a way to influence and change the outcome of any future referendum about Mayotte's affiliation. The Comoros authorities hope to gain a demographic advantage and use demographics to achieve what they previously have failed to do on the international stage or by voting.

"Illegal immigration is an organized violent act aimed at destabilizing the territory. The main tool of this violence is the migratory weapon used by our neighbor, the Comoros, that lays claim to Mayotte," MP Estelle Youssouffa says without beating around the bush. The analogy to the hybrid war waged by Erdogan or Lukashenko suggests itself. "Violence and the influx of immigrants to our territory are tools in the foreign policy of President Azali. He does exactly the same as the President of Turkey or the President of Belarus."

Open hostility neither prevents the Comoros authorities from receiving generous funding from France (recently €150 million from the development fund) nor stops Comorian politicians from draining the French social system. According to media reports, the local foreign minister has defrauded more than a quarter of a million euros.

The narrative of "stolen decolonization" was created by the Comoros, but some leftist French politicians also propagate it. A whole range of phobias and motivations can be found here, from anti-racist ojkophobia to Marxist revolutionism.

Some treat colonial complexes, according to which African people are always colonized victims. Others are trying to use the acute migrant crises in Mayotte as a precedent for Metropolitan France to modify the migration and asylum law.

French left supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon resort even to legitimizing the silent conquest of Mayotte by the Comoros, quoting ethnologists who claim that the population of the archipelago forms one nation with a common language, culture and customs, which means that illegal immigrants from the Comoros are actually at home in Mayotte.

It is interesting that the same leftists claim that there is no French nation or French culture. As can be seen, the ethnological criteria are racist in France, but progressive in Africa.

The leftist students in Metropolitan France not only protest against colonialism and Operation "Wuambush", which is 100% supported by the native inhabitants of the island. They also show their opposition to French offial policy by such favorite methods as filibustering. At the very onset of the slum cleanup operation, left-wing judge Catherine Vannier issued an order to stop it on humanitarian grounds.

The islanders are not blind to the fact that politicians, NGOs and courts use the law against them and pro-migrants. The gangsters terrorizing the island are referred to by Mahorans as "the judge's children".

Why should the exotic problems of a remote island interest us? Maybe because they are neither exotic nor distant? On the contrary, the paroxysm of the migrant crisis that is shaking Mayotte looks very much like Europe's laboratory, even if the proportions and numbers are off the charts.

Mass colonial-type immigration in Europe is, after all, toutes proportions gardées the same phenomenon as in Mayotte, triggered largely by the same causes: a combination of natural processes such as unbridled demographics and the natural rush of Third World populations seeking the comfort and security associated with the planned operation of foreign factors, along with the weakness of power and lack of will on the part of the elites and the helplessness-inducing ideology of pseudo-humanitarianism, etc.

The same underlying causes produce the same effects both on an exotic island as well as in Europe: "shitholization", brutalization of social life, ubiquitous violence, overloading of social systems and infrastructures... One should consider whether France and Europe do not deserve operation "Wuambush" on a continental scale.

– Adam Gwiazda

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

–Translated by Agnieszka Rakoczy
Main photo: Mayotte. burning garbage cans in September 2022. Photo: ABACA / Abaca Press / Forum
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