MAMOUDZOU (AFP) - Ten migrants from the Comoros, including a seven-year-old child, have drowned while trying to make their way illegally to France's Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte, officials said on Friday (Sept 25).
Mayotte has in recent years seen a massive influx of migrants from its comparatively poor and unstable neighbour, and increasingly also from countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the most recent attempt, 24 people set out for Mayotte in a kwassa-kwassa motorised fishing boat from Anjouan - a 70km journey.
The bodies of 10 of them were found washed up on a north-eastern beach of Mayotte on Thursday, police told AFP.
Their boat appears to have capsized in a strong swell.
Survivors were picked up by rescuers where they perched on coral reefs made shallow by a low tide.
As illegal crossings have increased, the bodies of two drowned adult migrants were found on a Mayotte beach in May last year, and that of a small child two months later.
About half of Mayotte's 280,000-odd inhabitants are foreigners, about 95 per cent of them from the Comoros.
The influx is a sore point, with locals demanding stronger border controls as they complain about the impact on public services such as schooling and healthcare.
In 2019, more than 27,000 illegal migrants were expelled from the island.
Mayotte opted to remain part of France when the rest of the islands that make up the Union of Comoros declared independence in 1975.
The union still lays claim to Mayotte, the poorest of France's 101 departments.