Îles Éparses

The Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean (French: Îles Éparses or Îles Éparses de l’océan Indien) consist of four small coral islands, an atoll, and a reef in the Indian Ocean, and have constituted the 5th district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), though sovereignty over some or all of the Islands is contested by Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Comoros. None of the islands has ever had a permanent population.

Two of the islands—Europa and Juan de Nova—and the Bassas da India atoll lie in the Mozambique Channel west of Madagascar, while a third island, Tromelin, lies about 450 kilometres (280 mi) east of Madagascar and the Glorioso Islands lies about 200 kilometres (120 mi) northwest of Madagascar. Also in the Mozambique Channel is the Banc du Geyser, a mostly submerged reef considered a part of the Glorioso Islands by France and the Comoros.

The islands have been classified as nature reserves. Except for Bassas da India, they all support meteorological stations: those on the Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova, and Europa Island are automated. The station on Tromelin Island, in particular, provides warning of cyclones threatening Madagascar, Mauritius, or Réunion. Each of the islands, except Banc du Geyser and Bassas da India, has an airstrip of more than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).


 

Geography

The Scattered Islands are:

Bassas da India
Ten unnamed rock islets
Europa Island
Île Europa
Eight unnamed rock islets
Glorioso Islands
Banc du Geyser
Grande Glorieuse
Île du Lys
South Rock
Verte Rocks (three islets)
Wreck Rock
Three unnamed islets
Juan de Nova Island
Tromelin Island


 

Administration

Since January 3, 2005, the Îles Éparses have been administered on behalf of the French state by the senior administrator of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF — les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises), based in Réunion.
The Îles Éparses had previously been under the administration of the prefect of Réunion since the independence of Madagascar in 1960. France maintains a military garrison of around 14 troops on each of the islands in the Mozambique Channel that are claimed by Madagascar.
The Glorioso Islands are also claimed by the Comoros, while Mauritius claims Tromelin Island.

France has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) around each of the small islands in the Îles Éparses, which together with the EEZ claims for the islands of Mayotte and Réunion totals more than one million square kilometres (400,000 sq mi) in the western Indian Ocean. There is considerable overlap of the EEZ with the neighbouring states.


 

Sovereignty Dispute

Mauritius, Madagascar, and the Comoros dispute France’s sovereignty over these islands. Mauritius claims Tromelin and states that the island, discovered by France in 1722, was not ceded by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Madagascar claims sovereignty over the Glorioso Islands (including Banc du Geyser), though the islands were never a part of the Malagasy Protectorate, having been a part of the Colony of Mayotte and dependencies, then a part of the French Comoros that had become a separately administered colony from Madagascar in 1946.
The Comoros also claims the Glorioso Islands (including Banc du Geyser), as a part of the disputed French region of Mayotte. Furthermore, Madagascar has also claimed Bassas da India, Europa, and Juan de Nova since 1972, and a 1979 United Nations resolution (without binding force) demanded the cession of these islands to Madagascar. Seychelles claimed a part of the Scattered Islands too before the signing of the France–Seychelles Maritime Boundary Agreement.

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