French candidates leading the EU election lists have hit back at French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin’s announcement of a tailor-made constitutional amendment on citizenship for the overseas region of Mayotte.
Mayotte is the EU’s newest outermost region, as it joined the bloc in 2014 following a referendum in 2009 that changed its administration from a French overseas territory to an overseas region. Located in the Indian Ocean, it is part of the Comoros archipelago.
The Comorian island of Anjouan is 70 kilometres from Mayotte. Official French and Comorian estimates of the number of people who drowned trying to cross this stretch of water between 1995 and 2012 vary between 7,000 and 50,000.
Mayotte’s better health, work and education conditions attract East African immigrants. According to the French National Statistics Institute INSEE, of the 256,500 people living in Mayotte in 2017, 48% did not have French citizenship.
Over the past two weeks, the organisation Forces Vives has launched a major protest movement, denouncing chronic insecurity and blocking roads, paralysing the island.
“We are going to take a radical decision, which is to end citizenship in Mayotte through a constitutional revision,” Darmanin told the press on Sunday, believing that this would “literally reduce the island’s attractiveness”.
Since the “asylum and immigration” law of 2018, specific and stricter birthright citizenship rules apply to Mayotte. In fact, children of foreign parents applying for French citizenship at the age of 18 have to prove that one of their parents lived legally in France for at least three months at the time of their birth.
The French government wants to extend this specific provision to both parents while extending the residency requirement to one year.
Considering that the reform will ease Mayotte’s immigration problem, the Minister of the Interior announced the end of Mayotte-specific residence permits, which prevented people from travelling elsewhere in France. This measure is a demand by the Forces Vives.
The leading EU candidates have rejected these measures.
Green Party MP Marie Toussaint claimed on X, the constitutional revision would “damage our Republic”, which is defined in the French Constitution as “indivisible”.
On the side of the right-wing Les Républicains (EPP), its lead candidate, François-Xavier Bellamy, considered that the end of residence permits is a “clear incitement to illegal immigration”.
Marion Maréchal, Reconquête! (ECR) the leading candidate also argued that the end of this measure “will lead to the transfer of immigration from Mayotte to mainland France”.
For LFI, its lead candidate, Manon Aubry, reacted to Maréchal’s suggestion to extend the end of birthright citizenship for France as a whole, saying that the Renaissance (Renew Europe) party “attacks the concept of nationality” and favours far-right ideas.
Meanwhile, Mayotte’s representatives welcomed the measures.
Mayotte’s MP Mansour Kamardine (Les Républicains, EPP) welcomed the constitutional reform, calling it “necessary”. “Through [the government] statements, we have the feeling and sensation that the government understands what is happening in Mayotte, at last,” he said to FranceInfo.
The “emergency bill for Mayotte” should be tabled before the summer, announced Mnister-Delegate in charge of Overseas regions, Marie Guévenoux.
Mayotte’s constitutional revision shall be approved through either a referendum or a parliamentarian’s vote of at least 60% in favour.
(Théophane Hartmann | Euractiv.fr)