Mayotte’s controversial slum demolitions begin

A controversial plan in the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte to demolish slum dwellings has begun after weeks of legal setbacks.

It was set to start on 25 April, but was initially halted by a court ruling. Subsequent successful appeals mean the large-scale demolition has been allowed to proceed and will continue for the rest of the week

On Monday, police officers wielding crowbars were seen inspecting the houses made of metal sheets in a slum known as Talus 2 in the Majicavo neighbourhood, before diggers and bulldozers moved in to flatten them. About 160 shacks had been marked for demolition.

Nicknamed Operation Wuambushu, which means “take back” in local dialect, the slum demolitions aim to address substandard housing and illegal migration.

Any resident who does not have the right to stay on the island will be arrested and deported back to their country of origin.

But according to Thierry Suquet, the highest state official on the island, only half of the local residents with legal paperwork have been offered emergency relocation so far.

Mayotte is the poorest region of France but attracts many migrants from neighbouring countries, mainly the Comoros, in search of higher living standards.

Half of Mayotte’s 350,000 habitants do not have French nationality.

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to the island to help to level thousands of illegal dwellings and oversee the deportations.

The plan has ignited a diplomatic row between France and the Comoros.

Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, said he would not accept Comorian deportees, claiming his country could not cope with the influx.

To make his point, he suspended docking authorisation for boats arriving from Mayotte.

But after a face-to-face meeting in Paris with President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, Mr Assoumani agreed to some concessions.

He reinstated permission for sea traffic between the two islands, but said only “voluntary returnees” would be accepted back home.

Source: BBC