-Article by Alice Ferré
From 1963 to 1981, 2150 children ages four to six, were dragged out from the French island of La Réunion and shifted to the mainland in order to repopulate the Central and South West rural regions. This month, the victims of forced deportation, now in their thirties and forties, will be heard by a special commission created for this case in 2014.
The processing was implemented by Michel Debré, Prefect of La Réunion at the time. Erased from French national memory until 2002, the case unveiled a carefully planned transfer of children to a foster care in the city of Guéret in la Creuse, where they waited for their new family to adopt them. However, not all of them had this opportunity; many ended up as illegal workers in farms or servants, alike to modern slavery.
Victims now seek reparation for their stolen life. Anne David, 48, was adopted by a family from Finistère when she was two. Interviewed by French newspaper Le Point, she discussed her discoveries: she comes from a family with seven children in La Réunion and seeks to learn more about her estranged family. She called for the special commission to deliver all details of the case in complete transparency, with available access to state files for the victims. Valérie Andanson, Head of the Department of Deported Children from Overseas and abducted from her family at three years old, demands reparation with state-financed traveling and housing in La Réunion. Like David, she learned later on, at the age of 16, that she has five siblings – all deported to separated families.
But the victims do not only fight for themselves; they extend their help to other lost children, those unaware that they too may face a similar situation and bring global awareness to these crimes against children.
In February 2014, the French National Assembly alleged moral responsibility of the state in the case. The resolution lays out three major points: the extensive and comprehensive diffusion of facts, the acknowledgment that the state failed to care for those children, and the obligation for the state to financially help victims to reconnect with their heritage.