- A photo-journalist has been detained on the French Indian Ocean of Mayotte upon arrival from the Comoran island of Anjouan in a "kwassa" boat, used by illegal migrants to Mayotte. The French photographer, Vincent Nguyen, was documenting this risky illegal migration route.
According to the independent newspaper 'Malango Mayotte', Mr Nguyen, who works for the French daily 'Libération', was handcuffed and driven away for detention upon arrival on the French island, which forms part of the Comoran archipelago. Also the ten other passengers onboard the small kwassa were arrested by Mayotte police, all on suspect of being illegal immigrants to France. Mr Nguyen was accused of "facilitating illegal immigration" when handcuffed.
The French photo-journalist was thus put in detention and questioned about his role in the illegal transport for about one hour, but released upon request from police superiors as soon as these had received information about his arrest. Mr Nguyen reacted to the fact that only he and the kwassa owner, organising the trafficking, were handcuffed, while the other passengers were taken into custody without being handcuffed, according to statements made to 'Malango Mayotte'.
The journalist's risky kwassa trip was intended to cast light on the growing and dangerous human trafficking from impoverished Comoros to the relatively wealthy French island of Mayotte. Mayotte is an integrated part of the European Union (EU). French statistics show that around 50,000 "illegals" now live in Mayotte, constituting about one third of the island's total population.
The "illegals" use the most rudimentary boats - locally termed kwassas - to reach Mayotte. According to Noël Mamère, a member of the French parliament representing the Green Party - mortality is extremely high on these illegal boat trips to Mayotte. Ten years after Mayotte closed its border with the Comoros, Mr Mamère says that between 2,000 and 5,000 persons have died trying to reach Mayotte illegally. According to him, UN statistics put the number at at least 200 drowning in the attempt each year, while local sources had indicated an annual death rate of around 500.
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