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12 Feb, 2024 21:09

France to end some birthright citizenships to curb immigration

For now the measure would only apply to the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte
France to end some birthright citizenships to curb immigration

The French government will amend the constitution to discontinue the practice of “birthright citizenship” in its department of Mayotte, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said.

Mayotte consists of two islands between the African mainland and Madagascar, which chose to remain French while the rest of the archipelago became the independent Comoros Islands in 1973. 

“We are going to take a radical decision,” Darmanin told reporters on Sunday, visiting Mamoudzou on the island of Grande-Terre. “It will no longer be possible to become French if you are not the child of a French parent.” 

The measure should make Mayotte less “attractive” to immigrants, he added.

Darmanin’s announcement comes after weeks of protests in Mayotte over crime, poverty and immigration which locals have described as unsustainable. Protesters have also demanded that those who have valid Mayotte residence permits can use them to travel to mainland France, which is currently prohibited.

According to Darmanin, the residence permit system will be reformed in conjunction with birthright citizenship. The proposal has run into opposition in the French parliament, however.

“If this provision is enacted and if Marine Le Pen then comes to power, it will be the end of birthright citizenship in France,” Green MP Aurelien Tache has told BFMTV. Le Pen is the leader of National Rally and was the main challenger to the incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 election.

“Birthright citizenship is not negotiable,” insisted Boris Vallaud, the head of the Socialist bloc in the National Assembly. He told the broadcaster France 3 that his party would oppose any changes to the constitution.

Mayotte has an area of about 375 square kilometers and a population estimated at 320,000 or so. Some French officials believe this number to be a “serious” underestimate, according to newspaper Le Monde.

2018 figures from France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) show 84% of the islanders are under the French poverty line of €959 ($1,033) per month per household. A third had no jobs or running water, while about 40% lived in shacks made of corrugated metal.