A boat carrying 46 Sri Lankan migrants is due to reach the island overnight from Friday to Saturday.
On Tuesday September 13, the Mauritian authorities were the first to spot the boat which was sailing in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In order to have more details on the passengers on board, the Mauritian police officers intercepted the boat and were then able to identify 46 Sri Lankan migrants, including 6 women and 2 children. The latter explained to local law enforcement that they were seeking asylum in The meeting so that the authorities of Port-Louis let them continue on their way.
The prefecture of Reunion announced that all measures would be taken to welcome these migrants before their asylum application is processed. The plan “Search and rescue“(SAR) was launched by the prefect to “locate and rescue passengers in distress“, in view of the risks run by these migrants, who made a crossing of more than 4000 kilometers in a boat of only 12 meters for more than twenty days.
Champlain, a building of the French Navy, received on Friday September 16 the task of accompanying the ship until it docked in a Reunionese port. “The objective of the French authorities at this stage is to secure the people“Explains the prefecture, which should then redirect these asylum seekers to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) and emergency accommodation.
For this French overseas department of more than 850,000 inhabitants, this type of arrival began in 2018. For four years, eight Sri Lankan ships, carrying a total of more than 300 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have docked in the ports of Reunion. A first migratory movement took place between March 2018 and February 2019, with the arrival of six migrant boats, which prompted the Quai d’Orsay and the Ministry of the Interior to put pressure on the Sri Lankan authorities to that they dismantle the networks of smugglers who organize these extremely dangerous journeys.
The Covid-19 crisis then caused a total halt to these arrivals in 2020 and 2021, but the momentum resumed as evidenced by the arrival of two Sri Lankan boats in April and July 2022, withvs respectively 126 and 6 migrants on board.
The social and economic crisis which has shaken Sri Lanka since March 2022 and which prompted Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign on July 12, 2022 is one of the factors which has revived this dynamic. But the religious persecution suffered by the Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities in a predominantly Buddhist country (70% of the population) can also explain the upsurge in the arrival of Sri Lankans in Reunion. The last six asylum seekers who arrived on July 31, 2022, thus invoked grounds of political and religious persecution to obtain their refugee status.
For the moment, these departures from Sri Lanka towards Reunion are not massive and it should be remembered that during the first migratory wave of 2018-2019, nearly 150 migrants were sent back by plane to Sri Lanka after the rejection of their asylum application. But the current dynamic could continue if social and political tensions continue in the former island of Ceylon. Mayotte, another French department in the Indian Ocean, already faced with massive immigration from the Comoros, also saw a ship of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arrive on its shores on August 3. They were expelled four days later.
Finally, these recent Sri Lankan migrations to Reunion resonate particularly in the history of the island. Indeed, after the emancipation of African slaves in December 1848, the landowners of the island turned to Asia to recruit a workforce of “committedintended to work in the sugar cane fields. The “committedwere mainly from China and India. They had a different legal status from that of former slaves, but were in a situation of semi-freedom. This system will be definitively abolished in 1939, seven years before the departmentalization of the island in 1946.