Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

Comoros/France: Penalties for military desertion in Comoros; protection offered by the state of Mayotte to Comoran refugees

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 27 August 2003
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ41856.FE
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Comoros/France: Penalties for military desertion in Comoros; protection offered by the state of Mayotte to Comoran refugees, 27 August 2003, ZZZ41856.FE, available at: [accessed 20 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to a chargé d'affaires at the Comoran Embassy in the United States, a soldier who has deserted has three months to return to the army (Comoros 25 Aug. 2003). If the soldier does not return, he is dismissed and the army's chief of staff subsequently decides what sanctions should be imposed (ibid.). No other information on the penalties that apply following military desertion in Comoros could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

France's Law No. 52-893 of 25 July 1952 respecting the right of asylum (which provides for the application of the Geneva Convention) applies to Mayotte (France 25 July 1952, art. 17). Ordinance No. 2000‑373 of 26 April 2000 respecting conditions for foreign nationals wishing to enter and remain in Mayotte states that a person may seek asylum on the island of Mayotte as a refugee (ibid. 26 Apr. 2000, art. 45). However, no information on whether Comorans have been granted asylum in Mayotte or on the protection offered to Comorans by the state of Mayotte could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, it should be noted that, since 1995, Comoran nationals travelling to Mayotte have been obliged to obtain a visa beforehand (France 22 Nov. 2001; Le Quotidien de la Réunion 28 June 2000; GISTI 4 Feb. 2002; Librairie La Gryffe n.d.). Further, since 1 May 2001, immigration to this territorial collectivity of France has been partly governed by Ordinance No. 2000‑373 of 26 April 2000 respecting conditions for foreign nationals wishing to enter and remain in Mayotte, which provides for [translation] "the implementation of procedures for keeping people in waiting areas, and deportation and inadmissibility procedures, as well as an arsenal of penal sanctions" (France 22 Nov. 2001). Moreover, Order No. 2001‑635 of 17 July 2001 [translation] "outlined the conditions for entry and for the issuing of stay documents, as well as those for procedures regarding administrative sanctions for carriers, placement in waiting areas or administrative containment centres, and deportation" (ibid.).

According to the Information and Support Group for Immigrants (Groupe d'information et de soutien des immigrés, GISTI), a non‑profit French organization that defends the rights of migrants, the introduction of a mandatory visa for Comorans [translation] "has plunged a category of Mayotte residents into a state of illegality, leading others to relinquish their identity in order to avoid harassment, incidents of which have become legion, condemning the residents of neighbouring islands to take patently impossible actions and risk their lives at sea" (4 Feb. 2002). The same source added that [translation] "[t]hose who manage to enter [Mayotte] are forced to go underground and become the potential victims of rapists, criminals of all stripes, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs or landowners who regard them as slaves" (GISTI 4 Feb. 2002). Moreover, discrimination against Comoran nationals is reportedly common in Mayotte: [translation] "[d]aily life in Mayotte, the stronghold of separatism and of the politics of exclusion of their Comoran brothers, is marked by extremely harsh criticism of the nationals of the other islands. Hatred of Grand Comorans and, more specifically, of Anjouanais, as theirs is the largest community, is fiercely expressed, even by children" (Maandzich 2000).

For the French government, [translation] "[i]llegal immigration is the main cause of instability in Mayotte. In the urban area of Mamoudzon, it gives rise to entire villages of illegal migrants" (France 22 Nov. 2001). The French government estimated the number of Comoran immigrants in [translation] "an irregular situation" at 20,000, and the cost of illegal immigration at 15,24 million euros annually at least (ibid.). The French Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l'homme, LDH) reported that 37 Comorans were deported on 12 December 1998 by the prefect of Mayotte (LDH n.d.). Moreover, since 1995, about 4,000 Comorans allegedly have died trying to cross the 75 km separating Mayotte from the Comoros Islands (Librairie La Gryffe n.d.).

In 2000, the Mahoran authorities reportedly escorted 5,239 people to the border and put in place a plan designed to prevent illegal immigration, referred to as the [translation] "'lagoon plan,' consisting in the continuous surveillance of Mahoran waters using a ground-based radar system, naval assets (dispatch boats) and a surveillance device on land" (France 22 Nov. 2001). In October 2000, the mayor of the Sada commune in Mayotte reportedly [translation] "asked his rural police officers ... to take an inventory of dwellings harbouring illegal migrants," stating that the ordinance of 26 April 2000 [translation] "would make the harbouring and employment of illegal immigrants an offence" (Le Quotidien de la Réunion 5 Oct. 2000). The mayor's announcement apparently [translation] "caused some fear among the commune residents," who [translation] "undertook to drive out the Anjouanais living among them illegally" (ibid.). The next day, 370 Anjouans reportedly went to the capital of Mayotte, asking to be repatriated to their island (ibid.). No corroborating information in this regard could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Comoros. 25 August 2003. Comoran Embassy in New York. Telephone interview with a chargé d'affaires

France. 22 November 2001. José Balarello. Projet de loi de finances pour 2002. "Tome VII : Départements d'outre-mer." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]
_____. 26 April 2000. Ordonnance nº 2000-373 du 26 avril 2000 relative aux conditions d'entrée et de séjour des étrangers à Mayotte. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]
_____. 25 July 1952. Loi nº 52-893 du 25 juillet 1952 relative au droit d'asile. [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]

Groupe d'information et de soutien des immigrés (GISTI). 4 February 2002. "Pour l'abrogation du visa d'entrée à Mayotte." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]

Librairie La Gryffe. n.d. "Comores, une caricature de la politique africaine de la France." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]

Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH). n.d. "Expulsion de réfugiés comoriens à Mayotte." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]

Maandzich. 2000. No. 3. I. Mohamed "Les Comores existent-elles?" [Accessed 23 Aug. 2003]

Le Quotidien de la Réunion. 5 Octobre 2000. "Un air honteux de déportation." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2003]
_____. 28 June 2000. "Des morts par dizaines." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin

IRB Databases

La Lettre de l'Océan indien

Internet sites, including:


Amnesty International

Asylum Law

BBC World

Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration

CIA World Factbook 2002


Conscription and Armies

Country Reports 2002

La Gazette des Comores

Human Rights Watch

International Protection for Deserters

Law Library of Congress

Le Matin des Comores

Le Monde diplomatique


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

War Child

War Resisters' International


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Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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