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Paris to send reinforcements to Mayotte after violent protests

AFP

France will send police reinforcements to Mayotte as the Indian ocean territory has been rocked by several nights of violent protests, Paris announced Wednesday.

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It follows a fortnight of sporadic social unrest on the archipelago, where protesters are calling for education funding, benefits payments and working conditions to be boosted to match the rest of France.

France's minister for overseas territories, George Pau-Langevin, told AFP that Mayotte is facing "a social movement with demands launched by trade unions" as well as an outburst of violence by some young people "who have no prospects".

She added that she had agreed with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to send police reinforcements to the islands but did not indicate how many officers would be deployed.

"A primary school student on the French mainland gets 7,400 euros (from the government)," said Rivomalala Rakotondravelo, a local trade union activist.

"In Mayotte, it is 4,300 euros ($4,850). That is injustice."

A general strike began on March 30 with the goal of bringing benefit payments, civil service salaries and public services in line with those of the mainland.

The local economy has taken a hit after demonstrators barred roads with barricades.

Seizing on the growing social movement, groups of hooded youths have been throwing stones at homes and cars nightly since the weekend, according to local authorities who have blamed rival gangs for the violence.

Following a spike in clashes on Monday and Tuesday nights, authorities boosted security in the main town Mamoudzou, although hundreds of youths still vandalised vehicles.

Mayotte was calm during the day on Wednesday with many schools empty and streets almost deserted.

Three people who were arrested during clashes the night before were swiftly sentenced Wednesday to between one and eight months in prison.

Mayotte, part of the wider Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, opted to remain under French rule when the other islands chose independence in 1975.

In 2011 Mayotte voted to become the 101st "departement", or region, of France which theoretically meant that the island became entitled to the same levels of support enjoyed by other regions of France.

However the island has per capita GDP of just 7,900 euros -- a quarter of that of mainland France.

(AFP)

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