PARIS (Reuters) – Children of immigrants born in Mayotte, the French overseas territory situated between Madagascar and the African mainland, will no longer automatically become French citizens, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said late on Sunday.

“It will no longer be possible to become French if one is not the child of French parents”, Darmanin told journalists upon his arrival on the island, announcing the scrapping of birthright citizenship there – a first in recent French history.

Located close to the impoverished Comoro islands off the East African coast, the former French colony has become the centre of fierce social unrest, with many residents blaming undocumented immigration for the deteriorating conditions.

Much poorer than mainland France, Mayotte has been shaken by gang violence and social unrest for decades. The situation has recently worsened amid a water shortage.

Since January, island residents have been staging strikes and erecting roadblocks to protest against what they say are unacceptable living conditions, paralyzing large parts of local infrastructure.

The reform, which Darmanin said was the idea of French President Emmanuel Macron, will require a change of the constitution.

It comes less than three weeks after France’s highest court scrapped large parts of a new immigration law designed to toughen access to welfare benefits for foreigners and curb the number of new arrivals into the country.

Immigration is a hot-button issue in France, one of Europe’s strongholds for far right anti-immigration parties.

Darmanin said, however, that “there is no question of doing this for other territories of the Republic.”

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Sophie Louet; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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