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Book source: De Geschiedenis van het Bagno van Frans Guyana, De West, 1979 no ISBN

Subject: [History] 'French' Escapees 1879-WWII

From records in Suriname one can read that in 1879 some 346 escapees from French Guiana [FG] were apprehended in Suriname. Since then the number of escapees escalated as the figures below show with a downward trend after WWI. 1880 403 escapees 1898 443 1913 198 1919 133 v In 1923 an agreement was signed between GovGen Baron van Heemstra and the French authorities to deal with escapees from FG. Since the arrival of prisoners in FG some escapees made it to Suriname and almost all were deported back to FG. They were hand cuffed and put in chains and then placed on a ship which picked them up on a monthly schedule.The escapees were held in the Fort Zeelandia prison until the day of their deportation.

Many of the escapees to Suriname had technical skills and as the story goes were often hired for their skills by: Suralco, NHM sugar factory at Marienburg etc. As soon as the French government found out some angry notes were exchanged between Suriname and FG and the hiring practise stopped.

Another story of that period in time was that an escapee found some red 'rocks' near Moengo that reminded him of a town in France where he came from. The town was Baux. That is how bauxite got its name (?). The story continues that a Surinamese businessman purchased the concession rights around Moengo where the red rocks were found and that he sold these rights to Suralco for a huge profit.

Escapees who could show their true identity as being German nationals were not deported to FG but were turned over to the German consul in Paramaribo.

Despite the agreement between the two governments and the establishment of a military post along the Marowijne to stop the prisoners coming in...they still came... until the prisons were closed forever.

Although the escapees had a negative influence on life in Suriname (some murder cases did take place) there were also positive influences of escapees staying in Suriname. Some Surinamers (and others) who studied French took lessons from an escapee or two. Then there were escapees who in the long run had an influence on the arts and work of artists in Suriname.

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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