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Comoros will accept refugees who are willingly returning from Mayotte


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Moroni, Comoros: Following a weeks-long standoff with Paris over the expulsion of undocumented Comorans, Comoros announced Monday that it will resume accepting its citizens returning “voluntarily” from the neighboring French island of Mayotte.

In a security operation in Mayotte, France announced last month that it would deport thousands of undocumented Comoran migrants and had already begun demolishing slums there.

Conflicts between youths and security personnel in Mayotte were brought on by the so-called Operation Wuambushu (“Take Back” in the local language), which also heightened political tensions with the Comoros.

The Comoran government refused to accept deportees from Mayotte and suspended docking authorization for boats coming from the island, claiming it could not handle the influx of its citizens.

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But on Monday, tensions seemed to be thawing after Moroni announced that it would accept those who were returning “voluntarily.”

At a press conference, Comoros government spokesman Houmed Msaidie stated that only candidates who voluntarily left Mayotte “will be admitted here” and that “mechanisms to identify voluntary departures will be put in place.”

A week after President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Azali Assoumani met in Paris to calm the situation, the most recent announcement was made.

Both countries’ interior and foreign ministers met last week and agreed to “cool the tensions.”

Mayotte’s population of about 350,000 people is thought to be made up of about half foreigners, the majority of whom are Comorans.

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The Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which formerly belonged to France, has four islands, the fourth of which is Mayotte.

After a referendum in 1974, France kept control of the island, but the Union of the Comoros, which oversees the other three islands, continues to assert its ownership.

Mayotte has French infrastructure and welfare despite being the poorest department in France, making it an alluring destination for Comorans who are living in poverty.

Many pay smugglers to make the perilous, occasionally fatal sea journey to Mayotte, which is 70 kilometers (45 miles) away at its closest point.

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