Express, June 6, 2017
The French President has angered the African nation of Comoros – from where migrants to the neighbouring French island of Mayotte have drowned.
The Comoran president attempted to assuage mounting tensions, saying that France’s 39-year-old head of state had made a “thoughtless” comment.
Mr Macron – who did not realise he was being filmed – told an official at a sea rescue centre in Brittany on Thursday: “The kwassa-kwassa isn’t really used for fishing, it’s used to carry Comoran.”
‘Kwassa-kwassa’ are flimsily-built fishing boats used to ferry migrants from the Comoros archipelago, a former French colony, to the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, a French overseas territory with the same political status as other departments in mainland France.
At least 10,000 migrants have died since 1995 while attempting the crossing from Comoros to Mayotte.
Comoran foreign minister Mohamed Bacar Dossar told the AFP news agency that Mr Macron’s migrant boat joke was both “shocking” and “scornful,” before demanding a public apology for the ill-judged comment.
Mr Bacar Dossar said: “We are deeply shocked and outraged by Mr Macron’s degrading comments.”
A statement by the Elysée Palace issued on Saturday said Mr Macron’s “unfortunate” comment had been “inadvertently” hurtful.
Comoran President Assoumani Azali, for his part, said his French counterpart had made a “thoughtless” comment, before putting the gaffe down to Mr Macron’s “young age”.
The Elysée Palace added that Mr Macron, 39, had had a “cordial, open and constructive” phone call with Mr Azali, and that the two had pledged to “strengthen cooperation” between France and its former colony.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National party, also slammed Mr Macron for his hurtful joke.
Mrs Le Pen told France 3 television on Sunday: “Mr Macron should not be laughing at the situation… not only because there are people losing their lives but also because our compatriots in Mayotte are enduring a living hell because their island is swamped by illegal immigrants.”