Three of the islands of the Comorian archipelago constitute an independent state but the fourth island, Mayotte, is a French department. As a result, Mayotte attracts large numbers of migrants from the neighbouring islands and a third of its population is said to be undocumented. As borders closed and society locked down during the coronavirus pandemic, these migrants found themselves increasingly unable to go about their (“illegal”) business; at the same time, the growing number of covid-19 cases in Mayotte, and the official absence of cases in the independent state, saw an abrupt reversal in migratory flows as many of these irregular migrants returned home. In this talk, I will explore the effects of these shifts in movements and the responses of the French state.
Iain Walker is a research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale). He works on migrations and identities in the Comoro Islands and among the Hadrami diaspora in the western Indian Ocean.
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