Overseas France

Overseas France (French: France d'outre-mer, l'Outre-mer, or colloquially les DOM-TOM) consists of thirteen French-administered territories outside Europe, mostly remains of the French colonial empire that wanted to stay French but voted for various status after decolonization. This collective name is used in everyday life in France but has no administrative significance. Indeed, the five overseas regions have exactly the same administrative status as the metropolitan regions while the five overseas collectivities are semi-autonomous and New Caledonia is an autonomous territory. Overseas France includes island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, French Guiana on the South American continent, and several peri-Antarctic islands as well as a claim in Antarctica. Excluding the district of Adélie Land, where French sovereignty is effective de jure by French law, but where the French exclusive claim on this part of Antarctica is frozen by the Antarctic Treaty (signed in 1959), overseas France covers a land area of 119,396 km2 (46,099 sq mi) and accounts for 18.0% of the French Republic's land territory.[1] Its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 9,825,538 km2 (3,793,661 sq mi) accounts for 96.7% of the EEZ of the French Republic.[2]

Overseas France
Motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
Territory of the French Republic (red)
Overseas territories (circled)
Claimed territory (Adélie Land; hatched)
Largest settlementsFort-de-France (Martinique), Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), Saint Denis (La Réunion), Saint Pierre (La Réunion), Nouméa (New Caledonia)
LanguagesFrench, Antillean Creole, Guianan Creole, Reunionese Creole, Shimaore, Tahitian, Marquesan, 'Uvean, Futunan, Drehu, Nengone, Paicî, Ajië, Javanese, and 35 other native languages of New Caledonia
Emmanuel Macron
Sébastien Lecornu
120,396[note 1] km2 (46,485 sq mi)
2,785,000 (Jan. 2021)
CFP Franc
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)

    Outside Europe, four broad classes of overseas French territorial administration currently exist: overseas departments/regions, overseas collectivities, the sui generis territory of New Caledonia, and uninhabited territories. From a legal and administrative standpoint, these four classes have varying legal status and levels of autonomy, although all permanently inhabited territories have representation in both France's National Assembly and Senate, which together make up the French Parliament.

    2,785,000 people lived in Overseas France in January 2021.[3] They have French nationality and vote for the President of France. They have the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament.

    Varying constitutional statuses

    Overseas regions and departments

    Historical population
    1950 847,000    
    1960 1,103,000+30.2%
    1970 1,388,000+25.8%
    1980 1,582,000+14.0%
    1990 1,921,000+21.4%
    2000 2,295,000+19.5%
    2010 2,622,000+14.2%
    2020 2,775,000+5.8%
    2021 2,785,000+0.4%
    January 2021: All overseas departments and territories total population: 2,785,000.
    Five overseas departments total population: 2,172,000. [4]
    Six overseas collectivities total population: 613,000.
    (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon,[5] Saint-Barthélemy,[6] Saint-Martin,[7] French Polynesia,[8] Wallis et Futuna,[9] New Caledonia [10]).

    Overseas regions have exactly the same status as mainland France's regions. The French Constitution provides that, in general, French laws and regulations (France's civil code, penal code, administrative law, social laws, tax laws, etc.) apply to French overseas regions the same as in metropolitan France, but can be adapted as needed to suit the region's particular needs. Hence, the local administrations of French overseas regions cannot themselves pass new laws.

    Overseas collectivities

    The category of "overseas collectivity" (French: collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) was created by France's constitutional reform of March 28, 2003. Each overseas collectivity has its own statutory laws.

    In contrast to overseas departments/regions, the overseas collectivities are empowered to make their own laws, except in certain areas reserved to the French national government (such as defense, international relations, trade and currency, and judicial and administrative law). The overseas collectivities are governed by local elected assemblies and by the French Parliament and French Government, with a cabinet member, the Minister of the Overseas, in charge of issues related to the overseas territories.

    • French Polynesia (1946–2003: overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity) In 2004 it was given the designation of "overseas country" (French: pays d'outre-mer), but the Constitutional Council of France has clarified that this designation did not create a new political category.
    • Saint Pierre and Miquelon (1976–85: overseas department, 1985–2003: sui generis overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity). Despite being given the political status of "overseas collectivity," Saint Pierre et Miquelon is called collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, literally "territorial collectivity."
    • Wallis and Futuna (1961–2003: overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity). It is still commonly referred to as a territoire (Territoire des îles Wallis et Futuna).
    • Saint-Martin: In 2003, the populations of Saint-Martin voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to become separate overseas collectivity of France.[11] On February 7, 2007, the French Parliament passed a bill granting COM status to both jurisdictions.[12] The new status took effect on February 22, 2007 when the law was published in the Journal Officiel.[13] Saint-Martin remains part of the European Union, as stated in the Treaty of Lisbon.[14]
    • Saint Barthélemy: In 2003, Saint-Barthélemy voted to become an overseas collectivity of France. Saint-Barthélemy is not part of the European Union, having changed the status to an overseas country or territory associated with the European Union in 2012.

    Sui generis collectivity

    • New Caledonia had the status of an overseas territory from 1946 to 1998, but as a result of the 1998 Nouméa Accord it gained a special status (statut particulier or sui generis) in 1999. A New Caledonian citizenship was established (in addition to the French citizenship which is kept in parallel, along with the European citizenship), and a gradual transfer of power from the French state to New Caledonia itself was begun, to last from 15 to 20 years.[15]

    Overseas territory

    Special status

    • Clipperton Island (French: Île de Clipperton or Île de la Passion, Spanish: Isla de la Pasión) is a 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) coral atoll located 1,280 km (800 miles) south-west of Acapulco, Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean. It is held as an overseas state private property under the direct authority of the French government, and is administered by France's Overseas Minister.

    Political representation in the French Parliament

    Flag of the Minister of Overseas France

    With 2,785,000 inhabitants in 2021, Overseas France accounts for 4.1% of the population of the French Republic.[3] They enjoy a corresponding representation in the two chambers of the French Parliament.

    Representation in the National Assembly

    In the 14th Legislature (2017–2022), Overseas France is represented by 27 deputies in the French National Assembly, accounting for 4.7% of the 577 deputies in the National Assembly:

    Representation in the Senate

    Since September 2011, Overseas France has been represented by 21 senators in the French Senate, accounting for 6.0% of the 348 senators in the Senate:


    Inhabited departments and collectivities

    The 11 inhabited French overseas territories are:

    Flag[note 2]NameCapitalPopulationLand area
    Population density
    (inh. per km2)
    French Guiana Cayenne 294,071
    (Jan. 2021)[16]
    83,534[17] 3.5 Overseas department / region South America
    French Polynesia Papeete 278,434
    (Jan. 2020)[18]
    3,521[19] 79 Overseas collectivity South Pacific Ocean
    Guadeloupe Basse-Terre 375,857
    (Jan. 2021)[16]
    1,628[17] 231 Overseas department / region Caribbean
    Martinique Fort-de-France 355,094
    (Jan. 2021)[16]
    1,128[17] 315 Overseas department / region Caribbean
    Mayotte Mamoudzou 288,926
    (Jan. 2021)[16]
    374[19] 773 Overseas department / region Mozambique Channel Voted on March 29, 2009, in favour of attaining overseas department/region status. That status became effective on March 31, 2011.
    Also claimed by Comoros.
    New Caledonia Nouméa 271,407
    (Sept. 2019)[20]
    18,575.5[21] 14.6 Sui generis collectivity South Pacific Ocean Referendum for independence occurred on November 4, 2018, with 56.4% voting against and 43.6% voting in favor of independence from France.

    Another referendum for independence occurred on October 4, 2020, with 53.3% voting against and 46.7% voting in favor of independence from France.

    Réunion Saint-Denis 858,450
    (Jan. 2021)[16]
    2,504[17] 343 Overseas department / region Indian Ocean
    Saint Barthélemy Gustavia 9,961
    (Jan. 2017[note 3])[22]
    25[note 4][23] 398 Overseas collectivity Caribbean Detached from Guadeloupe on February 22, 2007.
    Saint Martin Marigot 34,065
    (Jan. 2018)[24]
    53[25] 640 Overseas collectivity Caribbean Detached from Guadeloupe on February 22, 2007.
    Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint-Pierre 6,008
    (Jan. 2016[note 5])[26]
    242[19] 25 Overseas collectivity North Atlantic Ocean
    Wallis and Futuna Mata-Utu 11,558
    (Jul. 2018[note 6])[27]
    142[19] 81 Overseas collectivity South Pacific Ocean

    Uninhabited overseas territories

    (Lands generally uninhabited, except by researchers in scientific stations)

    FlagNameDistrictScattered islandsCapitalLand area (km2)StatusLocationNotes
    Clipperton 2[28] French state private property Central America
    French Southern and Antarctic Lands Crozet Islands Alfred Faure 340[29] TAAF district Indian Ocean
    Kerguelen Islands Port-aux-Français 7,215[29] TAAF district Indian Ocean population: 45 researchers in winter, 110 in summer
    Saint-Paul Island and
    Amsterdam Island
    Martin-de-Viviès 66[29] TAAF district Indian Ocean
    Adélie Land Dumont d'Urville Station 432,000[29] TAAF district Antarctica Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty System
    Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean Banc du Geyser 0 TAAF district Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar and Comoros
    Bassas da India 1[29] Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar
    Europa 30[29] Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar
    Glorioso Islands 7[29] Indian Ocean Claimed by Comoros and Madagascar
    Juan de Nova 5[29] Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar
    Tromelin Island 1[29] Indian Ocean Claimed by Mauritius


    Largest cities in overseas France

    Ranked by population in the urban area:

    See also


    1. Excluding Adélie Land.
    2. Article 2 of the French Constitution states that the French Flag is the only legal flag of France. Only French Polynesia, an overseas country, and New Caledonia, a special collectivity are allowed to have their official flags. This right was granted to French Polynesia by a 6 September 1984, law and to New Caledonia by the Nouméa Accord. The Administrator of French Antarctica is also granted his own flag through a 23 February 2007 ordinance. Historical flags are sometimes used but have no basis in law. Many territories use unofficial flags to represent the territories. The unofficial flags are shown in this table.
    3. Last population census in January 2017. The next population census in Saint Barthélemy will take place in January 2022.
    4. 25 km² including the outlying uninhabited islets. 21 km² without the outlying islets.
    5. Last population census in January 2016. The next population census in Saint Pierre and Miquelon will take place in January 2021.
    6. Last population census in July 2018. The next population census in Wallis and Futuna will take place in 2023.


    1. Land area of the four old overseas departments (), Mayotte, the overseas collectivities, and New Caledonia (page 21), the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and the Scattered Islands ( Archived June 19, 2018, at the Wayback Machine), and Clipperton ().
    2. "Sea Around Us – Fisheries, Ecosystems and Biodiversity". Retrieved June 20, 2018.
    3. The population of all five overseas departments totaled 2,172,000 in January 2021. The population of the overseas collectivities amounted to 613,000 inhabitants (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon , Saint-Barthélemy , Saint-Martin , French Polynesia , Wallis et Futuna , New Caledonia ). The total population of the overseas departments and territories of France is estimated at 2,790,000.
    4. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/fichier/1893198/estim-pop-nreg-sexe-gca-1975-2021.xls
    5. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3545753?sommaire=3292701
    6. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3545753?sommaire=3292701
    7. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3545753?sommaire=3292701
    8. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/2122700
    9. "Les populations légales de Wallis et Futuna en 2018 | Insee".
    10. "ISEE - Démographie".
    11. "French Caribbean voters reject change". Caribbean Net News. December 9, 2003. Archived from the original on March 18, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2007. However, voters in the two tiny French dependencies of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin, which have been administratively attached to Guadeloupe, approved the referendum and are set to acquire the new status of "overseas collectivity".
    12. Magras, Bruno (February 16, 2007). "Letter of Information from the Mayor to the residents and non-residents, to the French and to the foreigners, of Saint Barthelemy" (PDF). St. Barth Weekly. p. 2. Retrieved February 18, 2007. On February 7 of this year, the French Parliament adopted the law granting Saint-Barthélemy the Statute of an Overseas Collectivity.
    13. "Saint-Barth To Become An Overseas Collectivity" (PDF). St. Barth Weekly. February 9, 2007. p. 2. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
    14. "Treaty of Lisbon, Article 2, points 287 and 293". Retrieved January 31, 2008.
    15. "Nouvelle-Calédonie", Le Petit Larousse (2010), Paris, page 1559.
    16. INSEE. "Estimation de population par région, sexe et grande classe d'âge - Années 1975 à 2021" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    17. INSEE. "Comparateur de territoire" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    18. "Etat civil. Principaux indicateurs depuis 1984". ISPF. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    19. INSEE. "Tableau Économique de Mayotte 2010" (PDF) (in French). p. 21. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    20. INSEE. "Populations légales des provinces de Nouvelle-Calédonie en 2019" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    21. ISEE. "Tableaux de l'Economie Calédonienne 2016" (in French). p. 31. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    22. INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2017 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    23. INSEE. "2008, An 1 de la collectivitéde Saint-Barthélemy" (PDF) (in French). p. 7. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    24. INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2018 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    25. INSEE. "2008, An 1 de la collectivitéde Saint-Martin" (PDF) (in French). p. 6. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    26. INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2016 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    27. INSEE. "Populations légales des circonscriptions des îles Wallis et Futuna en 2018" (in French). Retrieved January 29, 2021.
    28. Ministry of Overseas France. "L'île de Clipperton" (in French). Retrieved January 31, 2014.
    29. Délégation générale à l'outre-mer. "Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises : Données géographiques et humaines" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 2, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014.

    Further reading

    • Robert Aldrich and John Connell, France's Overseas Frontier, Cambridge University Press, 1992
    • Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel - Paris: L.G.D.J., 2004 ;