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France's overseas territories explained

AFP Photo
A sign reading 'I vote NO' on electoral boards near a polling station ahead of the referendum on independence in Noumea, New Caledonia on December 10, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
The sun never sets on France as it possesses a string of overseas territories scattered around the globe, from former slave colonies in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean to tropical islands in the remote South Pacific.اضافة اعلان

Known colloquially as the Dom-Tom, the 13 territories mostly inherited from the colonial area are home to 2.7 million people, around four percent of France's population.

While their constitutional status differs, all residents have French nationality and can vote for the president and their own MPs in parliament in Paris.

Fully part of France

Five of the former colonies are officially overseas regions or departments — fully part of France and subject to French laws.

Guadeloupe and Martinique in the eastern Caribbean are home to about 400,000 people each.

Once part of France's lucrative sugar colonies, which were based on African slave labour, the Antilles islands are now one of France's favourite tourist destinations.

French Guiana: On the northeastern coast of South America, sparsely populated Guiana is mostly tropical rainforest and has a population of around 260,000.

In the 19th century it served as a penal colony, including the notorious Devil's Island prison. Close to the equator, it is also home to the European Space Agency's satellite launch site at Kourou.

• Reunion: A tropical Indian Ocean island off Madagascar, Reunion is home to just over 850,000 people, many descendants of slaves and indentured labourers from Africa and Asia.

Its economy is based mainly on agriculture and tourism.

 Mayotte: Unlike the other Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean, Mayotte (population 256,500) chose to remain French in an independence referendum in 1974.

But thousands of impoverished illegal migrants pour in every year from the other Comoros islands.

More autonomy

Other French territories, called overseas collectivities, are more autonomous and can pass their own laws, although some areas like defense are run from Paris.

 French Polynesia: Made up of 118 islands scattered over a vast area of the central Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia is best known for its main territory of Tahiti, a tourist idyll with black sand beaches. It has a population of 273,000.

 Wallis and Futuna: This isolated Polynesian archipelago with a population of 12,000 is heavily reliant on subsidies from Paris.

 Saint Pierre and Miquelon: The two islands about 20km off Canada's Atlantic coast are the only remnants of France's former colonial empire in North America. Their population is just 6,000.

 Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy: The two small French Caribbean Antilles islands have 38,600 and 10,000 inhabitants respectively.

New Caledonia

The Polynesian archipelago has its own status under a 1998 accord with France which allows for gradually increasing autonomy.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected independence from France Sunday, adding that "France is more beautiful" with the Pacific islands included.

Islanders on the Pacific territory voted overwhelmingly to remain part of France in a third referendum that was boycotted by pro-independence groups, raising fears of new tensions.

With all ballots counted, 96.49 percent were against independence, while only 3.51 percent were in favor, with turnout a mere 43.90 percent, results from the islands' high commission showed.

Home to 269,000 people, New Caledonia served as a penal colony in the 19th century. Today its economy is based mainly on agriculture and its vast nickel resources.

Uninhabited and remote

The islands that make up the French Southern and Antarctic Lands are visited only by researchers working in scientific stations.

Uninhabited Clipperton Island, a coral atoll 1,000km off Mexico in the Pacific, is the center of a huge Exclusive Economic Zone administered by France's overseas territories ministry.

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