A crowd gathers around a poster with the French flag at the entrance to the Majicavo slum on the French Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte, where authorities are trying to evacuate and demolish it.
“Every day they come one way or another, from the town hall or the police,” said Fatima Youssuf, 55, who, like most of the migrants in the territory, is from the neighboring Comoros archipelago. .
“It’s about destroying our property, our house, and yet someone has been there for 35 years!”, Yusuf said angrily, unable to read the placard.
Authorities in Mayotte are expected to launch Operation Wuambushu (“Take Back”) as early as this weekend to deport illegal immigrants who have settled in the island’s slums.
The plan is to send those without documents back to the Comorian island of Anjouan, 70 kilometers (45 miles) away, although Comorian authorities said on Friday they had no intention of taking them.
In the settlement, the A4-sized poster announced a ban on traffic between 5:30am and 5:30pm on Tuesday, making it possible for the slums known locally as “bangas” to be cleared by authorities during that time.
Dubbed Talus 2, the camp is a maze of blue-gray metal sheets on a verdant hillside, filled with sewage, chickens and brightly colored clothes hanging out to dry.
Each metal door has an identification number and is painted pink by social services.
Behind the door marked 126, the Soufou family lived in suitcases on wheels and packed travel bags.
“We are ready to leave with bags, clothes, sheets and all our stuff, but we are not done yet,” said Zenabou Soufou, 48, whose seven children are all children since their father was born in Mayotte. French.
On the bed lay the toy unicorns of the three Suffus daughters, still unpacked.
The family said they did not know where they would be going and said they had not been offered any alternative accommodation.
“We are not refusing to leave there (slums), but we want a dignified house where our children can live in peace at home. But if they destroy our house, where are we going to go with our children?” Zeinab asked.
People in the neighborhood often say there aren’t any other options against being placed.
But an official involved in the resettlement told AFP: “It was wrong that each of these families made a proposal and they accepted it or they didn’t. It was pure malice.”
In Soufous’ case, they probably won’t be evicted from the island – but their current residence is a different story.
The family perfectly illustrates the social and administrative dilemmas each case represents when it comes to large-scale actions decided in faraway Paris.
More than 2,000 police and administrative officials have been mobilized to train in deporting people illegally on the island and dismantling the makeshift shacks that temporarily house them.
However, in “Talus 2”, some residents attempted to pre-empt the cleanup by leaving the scene and avoiding immediate damage.
Ouali Nedja Hamadi, 32, was born and raised here – so angry he was forced to leave.
“I didn’t want to be there” when officers arrived, he told AFP from behind sunglasses.
But he warned those who were there when the operation began would not leave quietly.
“Let them tear gas, let them push — and I want to push back,” said the young construction worker. Molotov cocktails greet police and officials when they arrive, he added.
He and other young people warned that the authorities would reap reprisals and violence in what he called a “civil war”.
Below the slums, some people were happy to see notices written in black and white that criminals must leave.
“We were forced to lock ourselves inside all the time,” said childcare worker Ismaila Faiza. “You can’t carry valuables with you, like a watch.
“If you take your car out of the yard, you never know in what state you’re going to bring it back.”
She said the neighborhood had become “uninhabitable” because of the neighboring slums.
“I can’t wait for (clearance operations) to start so we can get back our island … our Hong Island,” she added, before ducking behind the security of her home’s automatic gate.