Moroni, Comoros- (African Boulevard News) – The Comoros government has refused to allow a boat carrying migrants from Mayotte to dock in Anjouan. Mayotte has announced a controversial operation against illegal migrants, and the Comoros government has suspended passenger traffic at a port where deported migrants usually land.
Refusal to Allow Docking
Speaking to AFP, Comoran Interior Minister Fakridine Mahamoud said, “As long as the French side decides to do things unilaterally, we will take our decisions.” He added that none of the deported migrants “will enter a Comoran port.” The country’s maritime services company also said that the Mutsamudu port was suspending passenger traffic from Monday until Wednesday.
Authorities in the French overseas territory of Mayotte announced they would launch “Operation Wuambushu” to remove illegal migrants who have settled in slums on the island. The plan is for those without papers are to be sent back to the Comoran island of Anjouan, 70 kilometres away from Mayotte.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros had warned last week that it would not accept migrants expelled under the plan that has triggered a diplomatic spat. Intense negotiations between Moroni and Paris in recent weeks had raised the possibility of a last-minute deal.
Comoros’ Leader Speaks Out
Comoros’ leader Azali Assoumani, who holds the rotating presidency of the African Union since February, said he hoped the operation would be abandoned, admitting Moroni didn’t have “the means to stop the operation through force.”
In 2019, France pledged 150 million euros ($161 million) in development aid as part of a deal to tackle human trafficking and ease the repatriation of Comorans from Mayotte. Around half of Mayotte’s roughly 350,000 population is estimated to be foreign, most of them Comoran.
History of Mayotte
Mayotte is the fourth island of the Comoros archipelago that France held on to after the initial 1974 referendum, but is still claimed by Moroni. In March 2011 Mayotte became the 101st French department, or administrative area, in accordance with a referendum two years earlier.
French Government’s Response
On Friday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed the operation would take place but declined to give a date for its start. Some 1,800 French police officers have already been mobilised in Mayotte to deal with “criminal gangs,” he said.
As Houmed Msaidie said, “the Comoros are not ready to receive the expelled from Mayotte, even though the convention signed in July 2019 clearly stipulated that consultations were needed. There have been and are still being held, but so far, we have not reached an agreement.” The situation remains tense as both sides continue to negotiate.