Iles du Salut (Salvation Islands) are located in the Atlantic Ocean, approx 11 km (7 ml) off the coast of French Guiana, and approx 14 km (9 ml) north of Kourou. Though closer to Kourou, the islands are part of the French Cayenne Canton Nord-Ouest.
This small island group (often mistakenly called "Safety Islands") consists of 3 islands, named (from north to south) Ile du Diable (aka Devil's Island, total area 0,14 km2 / 0,05 ml2), Ile Royale (0,28 km2 / 0,1 ml2), and Ile Saint-Joseph (0,2 km2 / 0,08 ml2).
- Iles du Salut were once part of a penal colony for France's worst criminals. There was maintaned a labor camp stretching along the border with Dutch Guiana (Suriname).
- Ile Royale allowed the prisoners to roam around in moderate freedom because of the difficulty to escape from the isle.
- Ile Saint-Joseph was chosen for the worst criminals.
- On Ile du Diable were penalized political prisoners.
As penal colony, Iles du Salut had the reputation for extreme brutality and violence. Many prisoners have died from tropical diseases. A small group of survivors were returned to France to share the terrible stories and scare potential criminals. The system gradually phased out and was shut down in 1953.
Today, Salvation Islands are a tourist travel destination. They were featured in Henri Charrière's novel Papillon. He was imprisoned here for 9 years.