Reunion profile

  • 24 February 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Reunion

The remote Indian Ocean island of Reunion lies between Madagascar and Mauritius.

As a French overseas territory, it has the same political status as other departments in mainland France.

Densely-populated and ethnically diverse, the island's capital of Saint-Denis is home to one-fifth of the population.

Reunion has traditionally prospered from the cultivation of sugar cane but tourism and financial aid from Paris help underpin the economy.

A large wealth gap had fuelled social tensions in more recent times. Unemployment is high, particularly among the young and emigration is common.

Reunion has a tropical climate and diverse landscape. It is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, the Piton de la Fournaise, which is also a World Heritage site.



Status: French overseas territory

  • Population 865,000

  • Area 2,507 sq km (968 sq miles)

  • Major languages French (official), Creole

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 74 years (men), 82 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images


Head of state: French president, represented by an appointed prefect

Reunion is one of four French overseas departments. It is also one of France's 18 regions and as such shares the same status as those on mainland France.

It has two elected legislative bodies - the General Council and the Regional Council. Members are elected by universal suffrage. The territory sends seven deputies to the French National Assembly and three representatives to the Senate.


TV and radio services are provided by the French public overseas broadcaster, RFO.

The press



  • RFO Reunion - public, operated by Reseau France Outre-Mer


Some key dates in the history or Reunion:

1512 - Portuguese discover the archipelago of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion - they are collectively named the Mascarenes after the explorer Pedro de Mascarenhas.

1600s - French colonialists claim the island, naming it Bourbon. At first a penal colony, slaves from East Africa are brought in to work on coffee plantations.

1794 - Island comes under the French crown and is renamed Reunion.

1810-15 - During the Napoleonic Wars, the island is lost to the British, who introduce sugarcane plantations.

1815 - Territory returns to the French under the Treaty of Paris.

1848 - With the abolition of slavery, indentured labourers are imported from Southeast Asia, India and East Africa.

1946 - Reunion changes from a colony to an overseas department of France.

1974 - The island gains the status of French region. Headquarters of the French military in the Indian Ocean are established.

1990s - Wealth inequality and high unemployment trigger demonstrations and violence as islanders seek more political autonomy and better wages and working conditions.

2000 - French government proposal to split the island into two departments is rejected by the French Senate.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lava from the volcano Piton de la Fournaise pours into the sea in 2007

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