In Mayotte, the fight against illegal immigration faces several challenges

From now on, three interceptor boats sail day and night to detect illegal boats. This was intercepted two days ago », Specifies sub-prefect Frédéric Sautron in front of the long decrepit wooden boat, in which three centimeters of water are stagnating. A boat rather in good condition “, he nevertheless assures in front of the Minister Delegate for Overseas Marie Guévenoux, who came last week to Mayotte for the fourth time with parliamentarians to whom she promised to show ” the reality of the territory “.

To spot this type of boat and spur them on at sea, a plane now flies over the 70 km of sea which separate Mayotte from Anjouan, the nearest Comoros island, from where several thousand migrants arrive each year. “ Thanks to this we are able to distinguish the area by identifying the boats, the number of passengers and the animals present on board », Underlines the sub-prefect, showing Marie Guévenoux the screen which retransmits the aerial images.

According to the sub-prefect, the plane, whose mission was entrusted to an external service provider, flies once or twice a day for a total of around 1,200 hours per year. “ It allows us to be one step ahead, to see big “, he confides to AFP.

More aggressive passers

But the heart of the system remains maritime. In the Mahoran waters, the three interceptors of the gendarmerie and the nautical unit of the border police (PAF) sailing day and night are supported by six other vessels which can be called in for reinforcement. Added to this are “ technological means with a drone and a radar, as well as 30 soldiers engaged on our coasts », underlined Marie Guévenoux last week.

In February, the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories Gérald Darmanin announced the creation of a “ maritime iron curtain » off the coast of Mayotte with still obscure contours. According to information from AFP, it would notably involve a greater presence of the French Navy. The radars installed in Mayotte, considered obsolete by several observers, must be replaced by more efficient equipment.

Thanks to these means, Frédéric Sautron notes “ a clear progression in the capacity to intercept kwassas, thanks to better detection “. In 2023, 965 illegal boats were detected, according to the prefecture, or 25% more than the previous year. The interception rate of these kwassa, however, fell from 73% to 69%. Because the task is not simple. “ The modes of action are increasingly aggressive and the smugglers increasingly better organized, notably thanks to accomplices on site. They constantly adapt to our devices », notes Frédéric Sautron. Not counting the refusals to comply: 39 in number in 2023, according to the prefecture.

According to Fahad Idaroussi Tsimanda, doctor of geography and specialist in migration issues in Mayotte, “ one kwassa in four » would be intercepted. “ A lot of things are happening in Mahorais territory. People on site serve as indicators, the smugglers are very well informed “, he assures. “ We must attack the little hands who participate in human trafficking but above all the root causes of illegal immigration from the Comoros », Estimates Fahad Idaroussi Tsimanda, calling on France to exert greater pressure on Moroni.

Especially since at the same time, illegal boats arrive loaded with contraband products. Nearly 66,000 cartons of cigarettes were seized in 2023 for a market value of four million euros, according to the prefecture.

With AFP



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