Iles du Salut (Salvation Islands) are so called because missionaries went there in order to escape plague on mainland. The islands are sometimes mistakenly called Safety Islands. Iles du Salut are a group of islands of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean, 11 km (6.8 miles) off the coast of French Guiana and 14 km (8.7 miles) north of Kourou. Though closer to Kourou, the Salvation Islands are part of Cayenne municipality (commune).
There are three islands, from north to south: Ile du Diable (14 ha), Ile Royale (28 ha), and Ile Saint-Joseph (20 ha). Ile du Diable is the most famous because of the political imprisonment of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, and is better known as "Devil's Island".
Iles du Salut were part of a penal colony for the worst criminals of France, from 1852 onwards. The main part of it was a labor camp stretching along the border with Dutch Guiana (today Suriname). Ile Royale allowed the criminals of the colony to roam around in moderate freedom because of the difficulty of escape from the isle. Ile Saint-Joseph was chosen for the worst of the criminals to be penalized in solitary confinement in silence as well as for extra punishment in darkness of colony's worst of the worst criminals. Ile du Diable served for political prisoners, such as Dreyfus in 1895-1899 following his conviction in metropolitan France for treason.
The penal colony for the very worst was controversial for it had the reputation for brutality and prisoner upon prisoner violence. Tropical diseases killed many others. A small core of broken survivors returned to France to tell how terrible it was and scare potential criminals. The system was gradually phased out and completely shut down since 1953. Today the islands are a tourist destination. They were featured in Henri Charrière's novel Papillon. Charrière was imprisoned here for nine years. The short story An Anarchist (1906) by Joseph Conrad is largely set in the Iles du Salut.
Highlights: Prison ruins, Kourou Space Centre
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28 January, 2017