Published on Aug 21, 2018. As France just toughened up its asylum policy, mass arrivals of undocumented migrants are not only overpowering European shores, but a tiny French island off East Africa.
Since it voted to become part of France in 2009, Mayotte has been flooded with people from neighboring islands; now, more than half of its residents were born somewhere else, mostly in the nearby Comoros, whose government claims Mayotte is theirs.
But Mahorais disagree; they blame migrants for leeching off social services and crowding the only hospital on the island, while Mayotte already struggles to operate on par with other French regions.
Earlier this year, locals' frustration boiled over, sparking a two-month labor strike to demand more immigration enforcement from the mainland. “We’re afraid of illegal immigrants,” strike organizer Maila Mouhadji told VICE News. “We’re afraid of the kids who have nothing to do and can’t work because they’ve come to Mayotte illegally … They will steal your handbags just to be able to survive.”
France sent more police and promised to invest 1.5 billion dollars into the island. But people like Maila say the response is inadequate, and if anything, conditions in Mayotte have deteriorated since the strike ended in April. The reaction has left locals feeling like second-class citizens on their own land. “We can’t house the whole world in Mayotte,” Mouhadji said. “Yes, we're French, but how French are we?"