French authorities on Sunday announced a controversial plan to amend the constitution to revoke birthplace citizenship on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, which has been struggling with social unrest and a crippling migration crisis.
France currently grants citizenship through both bloodline and birthplace, and this proposal risks further ramping up tensions in France following the adoption of a tough new immigration law.
While the left denounced the fresh plan as another attack on French values, some local campaigners in Mayotte welcomed it, and political leaders on the right and the far-right quickly suggested it be applied across the whole of France.
The reform was announced by French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin on Sunday after he arrived on the island, the country’s poorest department, following three weeks of protests there.
In Mayotte’s capital, Mamoudzou, several hundred protesters greeted Darmanin and his entourage with boos and shouts of “Mayotte is angry.”
Mayotte is composed of two islands that voted to stay part of France in 1973. The others in the surrounding Muslim-majority archipelago sought independence, becoming the Comoros Islands.
“We are going to take a radical decision,” Darmanin said.
“It will no longer be possible to become French if you are not the child of a French parent,” he said.
The measure would reduce “the attractiveness” of the archipelago for prospective immigrants, he said.
“It is an extremely strong, clear, radical measure, which obviously will be limited to the Mayotte archipelago,” Darmanin said.
Boris Vallaud, head of the Socialists in the National Assembly, said that they would oppose the revision of the constitution.
“Birthright citizenship is not negotiable,” he told broadcaster France 3.
Manon Aubry of the far-left France Unbowed (LFI) party denounced the decision.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s administration was “attacking the very concept of nationality, the foundation of the Republic,” she wrote on X.
French campaign group SOS Racisme also denounced what it called “a particularly spectacular calling into question of the principle of equality.”
Centrist MP Aurelien Tache told BFMTV that “if this provision is enacted and if Marine Le Pen then comes to power, it will be the end of birthright citizenship in France”.
However, Eric Ciotti, leader of the right-wing Republicans party, welcomed Darmanin’s proposed reform -- but complained it did not go far enough.
“What is happening in Mayotte risks hitting mainland France tomorrow,” he posted on X.
The measure should be applied across the whole of French territory, he added.
Sebastien Chenu, spokesman for Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, took a similar line.
“A lot of time has been wasted coming to this conclusion that abolishing the right of the soil, not only in Mayotte but everywhere in France, is not only necessary but possible,” he told Europe 1 radio.
That could be achieved with a referendum and a revision of the constitution, Chenu added.
Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal of the far-right “Reconquete” group, also welcomed the announcement.
“Bravo for finally recognizing evidence which should have been put on the table for more than 10 years now,” she said on broadcaster BFMTV.
She too called for the measure to extended across all of France.
Mayotte, which lies northwest of Madagascar, became a full-fledged French department in 2011. Thousands of Comorans fleeing poverty and corruption make the trip across to Mayotte every year in search of higher living standards.
The influx has caused major tensions, with many locals on Mayotte complaining about crime and poverty. There have been weeks of protest against insecurity and the migration crisis. A months-long water crisis has exacerbated tensions.
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