The French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique have seen mass protests against compulsory COVID injections for health workers.
France postponed a mandatory coronavirus vaccination requirement for health workers in Guadeloupe and Martinique, after the measure sparked days of widespread protests and unrest in French Caribbean territories.
In a statement Friday, the French Ministry of Health said that the implementation of the vaccination obligation – also in place in mainland France – would be postponed to December 31 to allow dialogue.
Protests intensified in Martinique overnight, with French officials saying journalists and security forces were attacked.
“If the law of the Republic must apply to all French departments, and therefore to Guadeloupe and Martinique, the terms of its application must be adapted to the health and social situation of these two territories”, specifies the ministry of Health in the press release.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday that 10 arrests had been made in Martinique and neighboring Guadeloupe after several journalists and members of the security forces were targeted.
“Everything is done to find those responsible,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ten police officers were injured Thursday in Martinique, including five by bullets, the AFP news agency reported, citing police figures.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Martinique and Guadeloupe over the past week to protest against mandatory vaccination rules for health workers and other restrictions related to COVID-19.
In addition to ending the vaccination mandate, protesters demanded wage increases and lower oil prices. Protesters have set fire to tires and trash cans and blocked roads in recent days.
“Last night was clearly more intense than the previous nights,” a spokesperson for the French state of Martinique told Reuters on Friday.
Reporters Without Borders said the journalists AFP, BFM TV and Abaca Press were targeted with live ammunition as they covered the outbreak of violence in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and called on authorities to quickly investigate what happened .
AFP reported that men on motorcycles shot four journalists, including a news agency photographer, on Thursday evening, but no one was injured.
Martinique and Guadeloupe, islands of 375,000 and 400,000 inhabitants, respectively, are considered formal parts of France. The inhabitants of the islands have French nationality and are represented in the French National Assembly.
But the territories suffer from higher rates of poverty and unemployment than mainland France, and the protests have highlighted local anger over broader issues with the French government.
“It is because many people in Guadeloupe have the feeling that the French government [is] Constantly telling them what to do, even if they are about 7,000 kilometers from Paris, ”Natacha Butler of Al Jazeera reported earlier this week from Pointe-à-Pitre.
Sébastien Lecornu, French minister in charge of overseas territories, held discussions by videoconference with Guadeloupe officials on Thursday and Friday with the aim of finding a solution to the unrest.
Lecornu is expected to visit the territories “shortly”, AFP reported on Friday, citing an aide to the minister.