1995 – 2015: Thousands of deaths off the coast of Mayotte. The ‘Balladur visa’ kills!

On 18th January 1995, the Balladur government decided to curtail circulation in the Comoros archipelago by imposing an entry visa upon inhabitants of the three other Comoran islands (Mohéli, Anjouan, Grande Comore) wishing to enter Mayotte. In this way, the isolation of the island of Mayotte, which broke away from the independent state of the Union of the Comoros twenty years previously following a unilateral decision by France which was contested by the United Nations, became a reality.

For centuries, small vessels known as ‘kwassas’ travelled from one island to another, forging important social, family and professional links between their populations: no border can erase these links. However, with the ‘Balladur visa’, Comoran neighbours have become potentially ‘clandestine foreigners’ if they continue to circulate in their shared archipelago.

Since 1995, by means of a true militarisation of border control – armed ships, radars, helicopters, etc. -, Mayotte has transformed itself into a hostile fortress for the majority of the people seeking to reach it: Comorans are joined by Madagascans and refugees from the African Great Lakes region. This measure has not prevented people from attempting to reach Mayotte or returning following their expulsion, but has instead directly caused thousands of deaths at sea.

Whether in the Comoros archipelago or in the Mediterranean space, the policy held by France and the European Union pursues the same objective: to render borders ever more impenetrable by waging a true war against people declared to be undesirable regardless of fundamental rights. The tools and impacts of this policy in Mayotte are less widely-known but are fully comparable to those observed in the Mediterranean:

  • Exceptional police and military measures are deployed;
  • Prevented from entering Mayotte legally, migrants are obliged to take ever longer and more dangerous routes;
  • Pursued on land or at sea off the coast of Mayotte, these people are victims of a policy of harassment, imprisonment and mass expulsion [1];
  • An already-initiated Franco-Comoran co-operation [2] officially aims to “put an end to tragedies at sea in the archipelago” while actually delegating and externalising border control to the Comoran state. A “circulation” agreement, similar to the dozen migration agreements signed with so-called origin and transit countries, is currently being negotiated between the French state and the Comoran state. If the Comoran state signs, this would reinforce the house arrest of a very large part of the Comoran population deemed to be undesirable in Mayotte.

Twenty years after the introduction of the ‘Balladur visa’, the signatory organisations have decided to join forces throughout 2015 to ensure that nobody remains ignorant of the consequences of the anti-migration policies led by France and the European Union in the Indian Ocean: this attempt to transform Mayotte into a fortress isolated from its economic and cultural environment is the cause of an authentic silent slaughter.

Let’s abolish the ‘Balladur visa’!

Associative network: Migreurop (european and african network), MOM (Migrants Outre Mer), Sortir du colonialisme.

Associations: AFASPA (Association Française d’Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuples d’Afrique), l’Amicale Panafricaine, ATF (Association des Tunisiens en France), ATMF (Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France), CCM (Conseil des Migrants au Maroc), CDISCOM (Collectif de Défense de l’Intégrité et de la Souveraineté des Comores), Comité Maoré, CSP 75 (Coordination des Sans Papiers 75), Emmaüs International, FASTI (Fédération des Associations de Solidarité avec Tou-te-s les Immigré-e-s), Femmes en Luth citoyennes à part entière, FNC (Front Nouveau Citoyen) Mali, GAC (Guilde des Artistes Comoriens), GISTI (Groupe d’Information et de Soutien des Immigrés), GRITAC (Groupe de Réflexion pour l’Intégrité Territoriale de l’Archipel des Comores), LDH (Ligue des Droits de l’Homme), Mémoires vives/Memoria Viva , MRAP (Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples), Respaix Conscience Musulmane, UJFP (Union Juive Française pour la Paix), Village d’Eva.

Federation: Union syndicale Solidaires.

Political parties : Djawabu Ya Komori (parti politique comorien), Ensemble (mouvement politique français), Front Démocratique des Comores, MDA (Mouvement Démocratique pour l’Avenir des Comores), NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste), PCF (Parti Communiste Français), Shuma (parti politique comorien).