Essay Politics

Dossier / To Have or Not to Have

Post-colonial Governance on a French Island
The 101st Department

by Nicolas Roinsard , 20 June 2012
translated by Arthur Goldhammer
with the support of Institut français

Mayotte joined the ranks of French departments in 2011. Although it passed almost unnoticed, the event reflects an integration that began in the 1970s but that is likely to continue for many years to come. The case of this small island raises the question of how colonial modes of governance can be ended in France’s overseas territories.

If, in a commemorative sense, 2011 was “the Year of the Overseas Departments and Territories,” for Mayotte it was an especially significant year in social and political terms. History is likely to record two major events: first, the birth of the 101st French department and fifth “overseas department” (DOM), and second, a long-lasting and tough-minded social movement directed against “the high cost of living.” These two events, which focused national media attention on an island that has belonged to France for 171 years yet remains unknown to most Frenchmen, illustrate the profound changes affecting the “seahorse isle.” Situated in the Mozambique channel, half-way between Madagascar and the Swahili coast of East Africa, Mayotte, which is steeped in cultural and historical references to Comorian, Malagasy, African, and Arab-Muslim civilization, has recently witnessed a large number of social and economic changes, most of which can be attributed to a process of political integration that began more than three decades ago.

On its way to becoming a department, Mayotte experienced an exogenous type of development that involved the imposition of French norms with respect to law, health, infrastructure, housing, education, the labor market, and economic relations (which were encouraged to become market relations), etc. In one sense, departmentalization requires a political transformation of the method and principles of governance in any territory that wants to be granted the status of a French department. The process of political integration also requires profound social, economic, and cultural transformations over a lengthy period (Constant and Daniel, 1997; Roinsard, 2012). As N. Lazarus (2006) has observed, one feature of the postcolonial era is the influence that major western countries have exerted on modes of representation, political management, and economic development in their former colonies, whether or not those colonies ever achieved political independence. Yet that influence has not prevented the dominated societies from developing various forms of resistance and adjustment in order to reduce the social and cultural cost of assimilation, which is accepted in response to egalitarian promises from metropolitan France but eyed warily when it introduces significant changes in traditional modes of social regulation.

Marine Nationale / Carte de Mayotte

Three Decades of Political Integration

Once a part of the French colonial empire (1841-1946), Mayotte, along with three other islands of the Comoros (Grand Comoros, Anjouan, and Mohéli, which were not colonized until early in the twentieth century), became an Overseas Territory (TOM) in 1946. In 1974, the residents of this territory were offered a chance to vote in a referendum that would decide their political future: the choice was either to become an independent state or remain French. A majority of Comorians at that time voted in favor of independence. The UN took note of this outcome and on November 12, 1975, proclaimed the Union of the Comoros an independent nation composed of four islands, in keeping with the rule that decolonization must not alter existing borders. France, meanwhile, had its own interpretation of the referendum results. Even though a majority of Comorians voted in favor of independence, the count showed that 63% of voters in Mayotte wanted to remain part of France. France therefore claimed Mayotte in the name of national self-determination. In 1976, a new referendum was held to see if residents of Mayotte really wanted to remain a part of France. The voting was influenced by lobbies organized and financed from Paris in order to protect French military and geostrategic interests requiring a presence in the Mozambique channel, as well as by prominent local citizens eager to acquire new powers in the wake of the transfer of the capital from Dzaoudzi in Mayotte to Moroni in Grand Comoros in 1966 (Caminade, 2003). This time the result was incontestable: 99.4% of Mahorais voted to remain a part of France. France responded to the vote by declaring Mayotte a “territorial collectivity” of the French Republic, a move that the UN would criticize for the next twenty years, but in vain.

Mahorais officials were highly critical of this hybrid status, which translated into a low level of political integration and, in particular, little assistance in the areas of public health and education. In 2000, they were able to obtain a new referendum intended to decide on the island’s future. This time, 73% of those who voted favored the transformation of Mayotte into a department of France. A law of July 11, 2001, then granted Mayotte the new provisional status of “departmental collectivity” and envisioned a new referendum within ten years to decide on the island’s ultimate status, which would logically be that of “overseas department.” In the meantime, the collectivity was gradually endowed with new competences normally associated with departments and regions, especially in the realm of decentralized cooperation. Finally, a fourth referendum on Mayotte’s constitutional status was held on March 29, 2009. Although the participation rate was a disappointing 61%, the result was once again decisive, with 95% in favor of departmentalization. In short, this fourth vote capped a process that had begun 35 years earlier, in 1974, and confirmed the will of the Mahorais to become French “at any cost” (Blanchy, 2002b) and to separate once and for all from the Union of the Comoros (Richard, 2009), which numbered among the poorest and most politically unstable countries in the world. [1]

Catch-Up, Equality, and Legislative Assimilation

Approved on March 31, 2011, when a new local legislature was elected, the effective departmentalization of Mayotte will actually require years if not decades to achieve equality of rights with metropolitan France. This is comparable to what was seen in the four other overseas departments. Given the considerable gap between conditions in Mayotte and conditions in France, the state has estimated that it will take Mayotte 20 to 25 years to catch up in facilities, housing, health, education, social rights, and economic development. The cost will be borne by France and the European Union, but cost is not the only reason for the slowness of the transformation. In concrete terms, departmentalization will necessitate the transformation of local institutions, which is a complex technical process.

Since 2000, the state has been working, not without difficulties, to bring traditional Islamic law (administered by the cadi, or Muslim judge) in line with common and national law, which assumes among other things male-female equality. Polygamy was prohibited in 2005, and new laws governing marriage, family, and inheritance have been adopted. A review of vital statistics, begun in 2000 by the Commission de révision de l’état civil, [2] was completed on December 31, 2011. A social security system was created in 2004 to provide health insurance, old-age insurance, and unemployment insurance, although the rules are not the same as in France and the benefits are smaller. The same is true of the system of family allocations created in March 2002. Assistance was initially limited to a maximum of three children, but since January 1, 2006, all children between the ages of 0 and 20 are eligible, but those above the age of 6 must be enrolled in school to receive benefits. [3] Of the 20-some family allowances that exist in France, only four are available in Mayotte (for handicapped adults, scholastic necessities, assistance to needy families, and housing assistance), but amounts for all four are lower than in France. Social minima will also be expanded gradually, with reduced amounts and delayed parity. [4]

Along with the new social rights, new taxes (on land and dwellings) will be levied as of 2014. A wage-increase policy is also in place. The minimum wage in Mayotte, today set at 85% of the minimum wage in metropolitan France, has doubled since 2003 and will not achieve full parity until 2015. Although the gap has been reduced, GDP per capita in Mayotte is only one-fifth of GDP per capita in France and one-third of that in Réunion. There is also greater inequality in Mayotte than in France. In 2005, the lowest decile earned 9.7 times less than the highest, compared with 4.3 in Réunion and 3.4 in metropolitan France (INSEE, 2007). Despite the gradual introduction of transfer payments to reduce these wide income gaps, Mayotte remains a dual society, with an agrarian subsistence economy existing alongside a service economy driven largely by a growing public sector in which most jobs are filled by metropolitan French (Wazungu). [5]

The Effects of Exogenous Development

What we see generally in overseas territories (Rivière, 2009) we also see in Mayotte: namely, exogenous development based on extremely strong ties to metropolitan France, which supplies jobs and skilled people to fill them, as well as consumer goods. [6] The prospects for endogenous development seem fairly limited in a small island economy, “especially in view of the difficulties of achieving economies of scale, the vulnerability to natural risks and exogenous economic shocks, the high price of shipping, and the economic dependency on a small number of sectors and products and therefore difficulty in industrializing, diversifying, and competing.” (CEROM, 2010, p.20)

The economy of Mayotte is therefore dominated by the tertiary sector and in particular by public employments, which in 2005 accounted for 49% of GDP, an increase of 48% since 2001 (CEROM, 2010). In terms of activity as opposed to value added, however, agriculture and fishing still account for an important share of the local economy, in which most actors have traditionally engaged in a variety of activities. A 2003 study (ESAP, 2003) estimated that 20,850 households (60% of all households) had at least one member engaged in these lines of work. Similar, the continued importance of the informal sector needs to be stressed, especially in the areas of personal services, construction, and agriculture. Part-time work is also significant (accounting for 32% of all employment, compared with 17.5% in Réunion), which reflects the fact that many people engage in several activities or work only intermittently. The peculiarities of the Mayotte labor market are difficult to measure in terms of ILO criteria, which are primarily concerned with populations stably engaged in the formal economic sector. This is particularly true when it comes to measuring unemployment, because many people who are underemployed or classified as inactive would in fact like to work. The unemployment rate in the ILO sense, measured in Mayotte for the first time in 2009, was 17.6%. For the sake of comparison, the unemployment rate as measured by population survey two years earlier was 26.4%, and it was 29.3% in 2002. Included in the penumbra of unemployment in Mayotte were 44% of the inactive population aged 15 to 64 compared with only 13% in Réunion and 3.5% in metropolitan France (INSEE, 2010).

Although a glance at the Mayotte labor market and economy is enough to reveal the existence of significant social inequalities, it is also true that the resources of Mahorais households are not limited to the local economy. Over the past twenty years, emigration to Réunion and metropolitan France has created a “remittance economy” involving extended family networks. [7] A recent survey of Mahorais families in Réunion (Cherubini and Roinsard, 2009) shows very clearly that the primary motive for emigration is economic. The goal is to benefit from social revenues (mariziki) in the host society so that the family may survive, and in many cases this means not only family members who have migrated but also those who have remained at home. Emigrants are fleeing economic difficulties (taambu) in Mayotte caused by the transformation of the local economy and transition to a money economy. The “revolt of the mabawas,” as the riots against the high cost of living in the fall of 2011 were called (mabawas means “chicken wings,” which became a staple of the Mahorais diet because they are so cheap), revealed the problems due to monetarization and the ensuing inflation (Math, 2012). Average consumer prices are 30% higher than in France, while incomes are only one-fifth as much. [8]

Demographic Growth and Immigration

The most recent census, conducted in 2007, estimated the population at 186,452, or 55,000 higher than ten years earlier. [9] The population has quadrupled in less than 30 years. The primary explanation for this increase is that the birth rate far exceeds the death rate. Despite a marked decrease over the past 30 years, the fertility rate remains very high, with an average of 5 children per woman in 2007, compared with 8.1 in 1978. The second reason for the population increase is a rise in the immigration rate. The proportion of foreigners in the population rose from 15% in 1990 to 41% in 2007. Nearly 80% of these are in an irregular situation. Because of the high cost of migration, migrant populations are generally not drawn from the poorest segments of the society of origin, but this is less true when the distance between the country of origin and the host country is small. This is the case in Mayotte, where much of the substantial and largely illegal [10] immigration over the past fifteen years has consisted of very poor immigrants coming mainly from Anjouan, an island just 45 miles from Mayotte.

Despite the small physical distance between the two islands, the Comorian migration can be seen in terms of a North-South axis characterized by a substantial economic differential between the two poles. Mayotte’s GDP per capita is 8 times higher than that of the Comoros and 20 times higher than that of Madagascar and Mozambique. According to INSERM, 50% of the migrants leaving the Comoros do so for economic reasons (Florence et al., 2008). In fact, the Anjouanais who work in Mayotte mostly do undeclared and ill-paid work (earning between 100 and 150 euros per month in agriculture and 250 in construction). Mahorais have various reasons for making such jobs available: “fear of theft if immigrants are not given enough work to live on, a feeling of solidarity with this neighboring population, with which there are many family ties, and advantages of paying low or even token wages.” (Blanchy, 2002a, p.170)

Sociologically speaking, there are indeed numerous affinities between the three islands of the Comoros and Mayotte, including family ties, which in many instances are sufficient to explain migration (travel to a wedding or funeral, family reunification or placement, etc.). According to INSERM, 26% of Comorian immigrants migrated for family reasons. As R. Carayol (2007) points out:

Although the political bonds were cut, at times violently, in the 1970s, family relations persisted. In the 1980s, it was common to travel to Mayotte to visit family, find a job, or even shop. This legal anomaly persisted as long as Mayotte remained the “poor relation” among French overseas territories, both institutionally (through its status as an overseas collectivity) and economically (because infrastructure development did not really begin until 15 years after separation). At the time, 90% of the population did not speak French, virtually all of it was subject to Islamic-inspired customary law, and the economy was still largely agrarian and not monetarized… as in the other islands.

The Mahorais, despite their wish to be French and to embrace the laws of metropolitan France, nevertheless remain Comorian in their souls. Outwardly assimilationist, inwardly they are still Comorian.

With departmentalization, Mayotte is likely to remain quite attractive. The two policies currently in place have not been able to reverse the flow of immigration to any significant degree. The development assistance that has been given to the Comoros seems laughably small in light of the country’s known needs. And the attempt to crack down on illegal immigration is a bit of a Sisyphean task. Many who are expelled from Mayotte return as soon as they can. Although the repression has thus far been ineffective, it has also been quite productive. In 2006, Mayotte accounted for half the expulsions in the overseas territories and a quarter of the number for all of France, for a territory that is only 1/1468 the size of the Hexagon. After the Ministry of Immigration, Integration, and National Identity was established in 2007 and set numerical goals for the expulsion of illegal immigrants, expulsions from Mayotte tripled from 8,536 in 2004 to 26,405 in 2010, of which 6,400 were minors. In short, although the Mahorais long favored departmentalization because it promised equality, the repressive state (and its financial wherewithal) arrived well before the social state. In fact, the struggle against illegal immigration was seen as a prerequisite for implementing new social policies.

The Transformation of Social Relations

Citizens versus foreigners: the terms of a new social division

Long depicted by local and national political authorities as an impediment to the departmentalization process, illegal immigration has in fact affected Mayotte’s social organization and cohesion. Social tensions have been increasing for the past few years, as Mahorais blame illegal immigrants for all their social ills. [11] There is real or perceived competition for jobs, housing, schooling, and public health facilities (Cherubini and Roinsard, 2009). The cost of health care for illegal immigrants has made it necessary to close facilities meant for the native population, which increasingly resents the presence of foreigners. More schools and teachers are needed to serve the newcomers. While awaiting the construction of new schools (1.5 of which are estimated to be needed each year), existing schools make do by moving to split sessions. Construction has been booming for the past decade, but the demand for new housing has outpaced the supply. Most immigrants wind up living in dilapidated dwellings, creating social, environmental, and health problems across the island. Kawéni, situated on the heights of Mamoutzou, is today the largest French slum. To meet the demand for housing, many “sleep merchants” have emerged who rent hovels to those with no other place to stay.

This economy of misery has given rise to new social relations of both domination and solidarity between Mahorais and Comorians. Access to housing and jobs is a key element. The fact that many illegal immigrants were poor to begin with and live in destitution once they settle in Mayotte leads them to accept levels of pay well below the local minimum wage. But employer-employee relations are not simply economic and involve more than the exchange of labor power for a daily wage. They also involve relations of reciprocity associated with traditional Mahorais social arrangements (Blanchy, 1990):

The migrants, who live in small dwellings lent or rented by villagers, participate alongside Mahorais in recreational, religious and customary activities. Employees and their families receive housing and material or financial assistance and are allowed to farm their own small plots. They may also be invited to share meals with their employers. Access to these services is not “tied” to the performance of labor, and it persists even after the work is completed. [12]

As one local official pointed out in 2003 after Mahorais women demanded the expulsion of immigrants: “We are the ones who give the illegals housing, who lend them our boats so that they can fish and our land so that they can farm… Everyone must accept his or her responsibilities.” [13] Here we see a clear expression of the paradoxes confronting Mahorais society today. When the people of Mayotte say no to illegal immigration while saying yes to off-the-books labor and the relations of reciprocity that go along with it, they are caught in a contradiction: their political integration with France depends on severing all ties with the Comoros, while their cultural integration with Comoros signals a refusal to commit themselves blindly and unconditionally to the customs and laws of metropolitan society, which they see as far more individualistic than Mahorais society (Blanchy, 2002b). Because of the historical, cultural, familial, and religious ties that exist in the archipelago, the image of the Comorian in Mayotte is fraught with ambivalence: although “the Mahorais are generally negative when discussing immigrants…, daily relations are good, as if the arrival of these neighbors, so similar to themselves, brought back a little of the culture and identity that are on the way to extinction.” (Ibid., p. 682).

With the implementation of departmentalization, and especially the completion of the vital statistics project giving concrete form to the division of the population into citizens and foreigners, social relations within villages and families may be altered by forces exogenous to local society. In particular, the policy of postcolonial legal assimilation has had a major impact on kinship networks. Some people who have lived in Mayotte for many years and whose marriages to citizens or kinship relations with citizens are recognized under customary law have been expelled, while others are recognized as French citizens and authorized to remain in Mayotte (Blanchard, 2007; Carayol, 2007). The political transformation that the island is undergoing today is therefore having a profound effect on complex family and social ties sanctioned by both history (through ancestral ties among the four islands of the Comoros) and geography (there are “transnational” or more exactly “translocal families” [14] composed of members residing in and traveling among the Comoros and Mayotte, Réunion, metropolitan France, Madagascar, Mozambique, etc.).

The Birth of the Common Law Individual

Obtaining French citizenship is crucial to reconstituting social relations. Citizenship not only allows a person to remain in Mayotte but also determines the benefit to be derived from departmentalization: citizens are entitled to benefits, foreigners are not. The right to receive social security is an individual right stemming from the social protection system of a wage-based society and is therefore entirely exogenous in relation to Mahorais society, which is still largely organized around principles of obligation and reciprocity associated with the village or family. This contrasts with the dominant model of integration in France, based on wage relations, social protection, and the relation between the individual and the state. In Mayotte, the status of worker is not in itself the basis of integration and social identity. Similarly, the traditional productive activities of agriculture and fishing and conditions of market exchange are governed not by a commercial logic but by principles of reciprocity and redistribution. As recently as ten years ago, two-thirds of all agricultural production went to family consumption and gifts (ESAP, 2003). Sale on the market is a recent innovation. This subsistence economy was embedded in a broader framework of social relations (Burnod and Sourisseau, 2009; Polanyi, 1944). Its function was not economic and market based but social and symbolic. As in a society of reciprocal gift-giving, individuals were able to continually assert their place and rank in the family, village, and religious group and thus insure themselves against the risks of precariousness and exclusion.

This brings us to the question of the impact of the market economy and transfer economy on local social organization. The market economy puts the individual at the heart of the exchange relationship and may thus alter or destabilize the principles of obligation and economic regulation that govern villages and families, which in any case seem increasingly susceptible to change (Linhart, 2007). The first studies of institutional and market measures in the agricultural sector (Burnod and Sourisseau, 2009) and in emigrant Mahorais families receiving social and family benefits (Blanchy, 2002a; Cherubini and Roinsard, 2009) point out that economic and social measures “imported” from metropolitan France are reappropriated in ways that either adjust to the structure of the local social organization or assist in the transformation of that organization. [15] Thus the assimilationist logic (or pressure) is not imposed mechanically but is rather filtered through the interests and value systems of individuals and the groups to which they belong—interests and values which are themselves changing in a context of social transformation. Described here as postcolonial in the sense of a metamorphosis of a strictly colonial relation, overseas departmentalization affects the host societies and is in turn affected by them. Mayotte, which is today integrating new metropolitan norms with the existing “invisble laws” (Blanchy, 2002a, p. 192) of local society, appears to be conforming to this rule.

First published in Translated from French by Arthur Goldhammer with the support of the Institut français.

Dossier(s) :
To Have or Not to Have

by Nicolas Roinsard, 20 June 2012

Further reading


  • Blanchard E., 2007. “Fractures (post)coloniales à Mayotte,” Vacarme, n°38.
  • Blanchy S., 1990. La vie quotidienne à Mayotte, Paris, L’Harmattan.
  • Blanchy S., 2002a. “Changement social à Mayotte : Transformations, tensions, ruptures,” Études Océan Indien, n°33-34, p. 165-195.
  • Blanchy S., 2002b. “Mayotte : ‘française à tout prix’,” Ethnologie française, Paris, vol. 32, n°4, p. 677-687.
  • Burnod P., Sourisseau J.-M., 2007. “Changement institutionnel et immigration clandestine à Mayotte : quelles conséquences sur les relations de travail dans le secteur agricole ?,” Autrepart, n°43, p. 165-176.
  • Burnod, P., Sourisseau J.-M., 2009. “Identité et marché dans une situation de pluralisme institutionnel : le cas du secteur agricole à Mayotte,” e-journal Développement durable et Territoires, dossier 12 : Identité, patrimoines collectifs et développement soutenable.
  • Caminade P., 2003. Comores-Mayotte, une histoire néo-coloniale, Paris, Agone.
  • Carayol R., 2007. “Mayotte, une société disloquée,” Plein Droit. Revue du GISTI, n°74.
  • CEROM, 2010. Mutations et évolutions de l’économie mahoraise à la veille de la départementalisation, n°1.
  • Cherubini B., Roinsard N., 2009. Stratégies migratoires et enjeux de la protection sociale à La Réunion et à Mayotte : conflits et concurrences dans les espaces sanitaires et sociaux, report to the MiRe-DREES, program “Migrations et protection sociale.”
  • Constant F., Daniel J. (éds.), 1997. Cinquante ans de départementalisation outre-mer, 1946-1996, Paris, L’Harmattan.
  • ESAP, 2003. Agreste Mayotte. Enquête statistique sur l’Agriculture et la Pêche, Direction de l’Agriculture et de la Forêt, Mayotte.
  • Florence S., Lebas J., Lesieur S., Chauvin P., 2008. Santé et migration à Mayotte, Paris, INSERMUMRS 707, rapport final à l’AFD.
  • INSEE, 2010. “Enquête Emploi 2009. Un marché de l’emploi atypique,” Mayotte Infos, n°48.
  • INSEE, 2007. “Le revenu des habitants de Mayotte en 2005,” INSEE Infos n°28.
  • Lazarus N. (ed.), 2006. Penser le postcolonial. Une introduction critique, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam.
  • Linhart J.-L., 2007. “La famille mahoraise, de la tradition à l’occidentalisation,” in Latchoumanin M., Malbert T. (eds), Familles et parentalité, Paris, L’Hamattan, p. 235-245.
  • Math A., 2012. “Mayotte - Nouveau département, conflit social majeur : la révolte contre la vie chère,” Chronique internationale de l’IRES, n°132, p. 55-70.
  • Polanyi K., 1983 (1st ed. 1944). La Grande Transformation. Aux origines politiques et économiques de notre temps, Paris, Gallimard.
  • Richard E., 2009. Compétence métisse : mobilisations et métier politique à Mayotte (1975-2005), Doctorat en sciences politiques, Université de Montpellier I.
  • Rivière F., 2009. “Développement ultramarin et dépendance à la métropole », in « L’outre-mer français : où en sommes-nous ?,” Regards sur l’actualité, n°355, La Documentation française, p. 41-55.
  • Roinsard N., 2012 (à paraître). “Soixante ans de départementalisation à La Réunion : une sociologie des mutations de l’organisation sociale et de la structure de classe en contexte postcolonial,” in Bruneteaux P., Zander U. (éds.), “Quel colonialisme dans la France d’outre-mer ?,” Asylon(s), 25 p.
  • Sakoyan J., 2010. Un souci en partage. Migrations de soins et espace politique entre l’archipel des Comores et la France, Doctorat d’anthropologie, EHESS.


Chronique internationale de l’IRES, n° 132, January 2012, p. 41-92.

To quote this article :

Nicolas Roinsard, « Post-colonial Governance on a French Island. The 101st Department », Books and Ideas , 20 June 2012. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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[1There have been no fewer than 20 coups d’état since independence.

[2The CREC was tasked with verifying birth, marriage, and death certificates that should have been recorded in Mayotte under common or local law regimes prior to March 9, 2000.

[3In December 2010, 17,273 families were receiving aid out of some 74,600 covered.

[4One new benefit was introduced on January 1, 2012: the Revenu de solidarité active. In view of differences in standard of living and labor market structure between Mayotte and France, its amount was set at 119 euros per month for a single individual, or 25% of the amount in metropolitan France and other DOM for a similar individual. According to estimates of INSEE and CAF in Mayotte, the number of beneficiaries was expected to be 70 to 80,000, or 1 Mahorais in 3.

[5The italicized words are in shimaore, one of the two dominant languages in Mayotte, along with shibushi.

[6Mayotte’s imports more than doubled between 2000 and 2008, and 42% of imported goods came from metropolitan France. The ratio of imports to exports was 1.4% in 2008.

[7There is also substantial student emigration from Mayotte.

[8Although the case of Mayotte is exceptional, the high cost of living mobilized populations of all the overseas departments over the past three years. From the “kont pwofitasyon” (anti-profiteer) movement in the Antilles in 2009 to the urban riots of February 2012 in Réunion, each conflict was initiated (and partly resolved) by (public or private) price-setting policies.

[9The population today is estimated at 200,000.

[10Illegal under French law but not international law, since Mayotte is part of the Union of Comoros under international law. The increase in illegal immigration should be seen in relation to the establishment of the “Balladur visa” in 1995, which put an end to free travel between Mayotte and the three islands of the Comoros.

[11Tensions were particularly apparent in the fall of 2005. Immigrants were beaten, their homes were burned or pillaged, destitute Anjouanais set up shops to survive, etc. Though subjected to public humiliation and threatened with deportation, immigrants demonstrated and sacked the headquarters of a UMP deputy, Mansour Kamardine, who had encouraged “anti-poor” racism against the Anjouanais.

[12Burnod et Sourisseau, “Changement institutionnel et immigration clandestine à Mayotte : quelles conséquences sur les relations de travail dans le secteur agricole ?,” Autrepart, n°43, 2007, p. 171-172.

[13Mayotte Hebdo, n° 132, Sept. 2003.

[14This term was proposed by J. Sakoyan (2010, pp. 116-119) to characterize Comoran immigrants, who follow paths that are more colonial than transnational.

[15In the Antilles and Réunion as well, one observes changes in gender relations with the advent of a transfer economy (family benefits, single parent allocations, etc.).

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