The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros vowed on Friday not to accept migrants deported from neighboring French island of Mayotte, sparking a diplomatic row as the move looms.
Mayotte authorities are expected to launch Operation Wuambushu (“Take Back”) next week to deport illegal immigrants who have settled in the island’s slums.
Those without documents will be sent back to the Comorian island of Anjouan, 70 kilometers (45 miles) away.
“The Comoros does not intend to welcome people deported as a result of the actions planned by the French government in Mayotte,” government spokesman Houmed Msaidie told AFP.
Msaidi said the planned action was against the “spirit and letter” of the agreement between the two countries.
Moroni had earlier urged Paris to drop the move, which French President Emmanuel Macron approved in February.
Mayotte and the three islands of what is now the Comoros were French territories until 1975.
Following the referendum, Greater Comores, Moheli and Anjouan Islands declared themselves an independent country, the Union of the Comoros.
But Mayotte voted to remain a French overseas territory, which later became a French department – a status rejected by the Comoros, which continues to claim sovereignty over the island.
Mayotte is the poorest province in France, with about 80% of the population living below the poverty line and a high social crime rate.
But it also benefits from French infrastructure support and welfare, which has led to an influx of Comoros, with many migrants trying to cross dangerously in rickety boats used by smugglers.