Mayotte is a former French colony. It is composed of several islands and lies within the Comoros Islands off the coast of Southwestern Africa in the Indian Ocean. However, in 1975 when the Comoros Islands chose to declare independence from France, Mayotte opted to remain as a French dependency. This has led to some negative views of Mayotte from the Comoros Islands.
Although it is difficult to find detailed information about the condition of poverty in Mayotte due to its small population and complex relationship with France, development remains a major problem facing the country.
The 247,386 people of Mayotte are considered French citizens and live under French law. While Mayotte’s connection to France provides some financial advantages, most individuals identify culturally and religiously with the Majority Muslim Comoran people. Mayotte became a member of the European Union in 2014.
This past spring, unrest over poverty in Mayotte came to a head as violent riots led by trade unions broke out in the streets. One activist shares his concern with French news station France 24, “a primary school student on the French mainland gets €7,400 (from the government)… In Mayotte, it is €4,300 ($4,850). That is injustice”.
Despite their status as a French territory, many Mahorais feel neglected by the French government. In 2011, over 84 percent of Mahorais lived below the poverty line compared to just 16 percent in France. There is also an extreme disparity between the upper class — which includes many French expatriates — and lower class of Mayotte. Of note, Mayotte’s GDP per capita is less than a quarter (€7,99) of France’s.
Mahorais also face concerns of rapidly increasing immigration — mainly from the Surrounding Comoros Islands — from individuals seeking French citizenship and a presumed higher standard of living. More than 40 percent of the Mayotte population were born outside of the country and immigrated to look for work.
In May, local anti-immigration groups took actions to expel many of the immigrants (over 700 people in one village alone), regardless of their legal status. Both French and Mahorai officials have spoken out against the forced expulsions. However, these events also prove to French officials that the Mahorais expect their concerns to be taken seriously.
In light of the unrest, France has since sent numerous officials to Mayotte to try to ease tension and put an end to the violence.
Politically and financially Mayotte is aligned with France, but they fit in more with the geography and culture of the Comoros Islands. However, due to its close ties to France Mayotte is much wealthier than surrounding islands. Hopefully, the territory can use its position within the French government to seek further assistance regarding poverty in Mayotte and unrest due to growing immigration concerns.
– Carrie Robinson