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Country Reports

Mayotte Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travel to the French archipelago of Mayotte (population 235,132) does not present any major personal security risks. However, certain security and sociopolitical issues should be noted prior to travel.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Mayotte became a French overseas department in March 2011 following a 2009 referendum; prior to that date it had been classified as a French territory. The yes vote was likely more due to a desire to remain independent from nearby Comoros - which had claimed sovereignty over the archipelago since 1975 - rather than to become closer to Paris. Mayotte was acquired by France in the nineteenth century and grouped together with the overseas territory of Comoros in 1946. The archipelago finally became a territory of France in 1976 following Comorian independence in 1975.

Since the fall of 2011, protest movements (denouncing, in particular, the increased cost of living), which occasionally result in outbreaks of violence, have regularly threatened the stability of the new department. The archipelago of Mayotte remains one of the poorest French overseas departments; 84 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Additionally, Mayotte is not subjected to the same laws as other overseas departments. Following major mobilizations that paralyzed the archipelago in March 2016 (in favor of equality and consistency between the department and France), the French government announced its intention to align the laws and regulations of Mayotte to those of France in the coming years.

Clashes between law enforcement officials and protesters can break out during protests. It is advised to avoid all public gatherings as a precaution against potential violence.

Strikes, particularly at seaports, have the potential to limit the supply of food and fuel to the archipelago. In February and June 2017, major strikes at the commercial port of Longoni temporarily blocked shipments - threatening shortages on the archipelago. Similarly, a strike launched by employees of Total in mid-August 2017 resulted in significant fuel shortages. As Mayotte is host to one singular port and one main road linking its various communes, the department is, by nature, very exposed to the potentially-severe impacts of blockades or other social movements.

On a different note, Mayotte has been confronted with significant illegal immigration from the neighboring archipelago of Comoros - located some 70 km (43 miles) away - since it became a French department. The department's population is thought to be approximately 43 percent undocumented migrants - a situation which has incited the local population to use force to expel the migrants, who are often blamed for the increasing insecurity in the department.

CRIME

There is a risk of crime in Mayotte, especially in densely populated and tourist areas. Armed theft, robberies, and burglaries are common.

Cases of delinquency (theft) are particularly high in the south of the main island of Grande-Terre, more popular with tourists, as well as on the east coast around Mamoudzou and on the island of Petite-Terre, home to the most densely-populated areas of Mayotte. Tourists can be targeted by crime. Burglaries appear to be concentrated in residential areas located near economic centers of the department, near the port of Longoni (close to Koungou), Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi International Airport (DZA), and government buildings (Mamoudzou and Dzaoudzi). It is suggested to opt - for your comfort and safety - for secure lodging (equipped with metal grills and alarms, if possible).

It is not recommended to walk on isolated beaches; in general, exercise vigilance in busy areas such as markets, parks, and beaches. Avoid walking alone at night in isolated places.

Finally, it is advised to store all valuables, money, and identity documents in hotel safes and to travel with photocopies of all important documents (the police are generally accepting of copies).

TRANSPORTATION

On the main island of Grande-Terre, a main circular road connects all the communes. Secondary roads are paved. The lack of vehicle maintenance, street lights, and traffic lights -  as well as the presence of potholes - can, however, make driving dangerous.

Except for collective taxis, there are no public transport services in the archipelago. It is, however, possible to rent vehicles.

A ferry service links the islands of Grande-Terre and Petite-Terre. However, it is recommended to inspect the safety of the boat (if it is overloaded or in poor condition), as accidents have occurred.

Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi International Airport (DZA) is located on the island of Petite-Terre. From the airport, there is a free ferry service to reach the main island (Grande-Terre).

INFRASTRUCTURE

There is an overall lack of hotel facilities in Mayotte (barely 1000 beds throughout the archipelago).

In addition, due to recurring strikes and the risk of drought, the archipelago may be exposed to shortages of fuel, food, and water.

HEALTH

Although medical facilities are present in Mamoudzou (Grande-Terre) and Dzaoudzi (Petite-Terre), there are no hospitals outside these major cities. In addition, the department suffers from a lack of medical staff.

The main health risks concern diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Although the risk of contracting yellow fever is not present in the archipelago, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers coming from countries that have seen cases of the disease or have passed through countries where the risk of contracting yellow fever is high. Malaria is endemic to the archipelago throughout the year. Cases of dengue fever have been reported. The Zika virus is also a risk in the country. It is strongly advised to take precautions in order to protect against mosquito bites (using insect repellent, wearing loose clothing, taking preventive medication, etc.).

There is a risk of contracting diarrheal and gastric diseases; it is advised to drink only decontaminated or bottled water and wash your hands regularly.

To avoid the risk of parasitic infection, it is recommended to not drink, shower, wash clothes, or walk in stagnant water.

Take precautionary measures against HIV/AIDS.

The measles vaccination is strongly recommended before travel.

NATURAL RISKS

The amount of available drinking water depends largely on the rainfall in the archipelago. Due to a major drought, the Prefecture of Mayotte set up scheduled water cuts on December 16, 2016, which rendered it impossible to guarantee the purity of water and, in the long term, resulted in water shortages, especially on the southern and central parts of Grande-Terre. These conditions sparked major protests in February 2017.

Cyclones strike the archipelago between December and April.

OTHER

It is advised to be respectful of Muslim religious practices and culture; 95 percent of the population is Muslim.

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