The Salvation Islands (French: Îles du Salut, so called because the missionaries went there to escape plague on the mainland; sometimes mistakenly called Safety Islands) are a group of small islands of volcanic origin about 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) off the coast of French Guiana, 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) north of Kourou, in the Atlantic Ocean. Although closer to Kourou, the islands are part of Cayenne commune (municipality), specifically Cayenne 1er Canton Nord-Ouest.
There are three islands, from north to south:
|Island||Area (ha)||Height (m)|
Devil's Island, the most famous due to the political imprisonment there of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, is better known to French speakers as Île du Diable. The total area is 0.62 square kilometres (0.24 square miles). Devil's Island and Île Royale are separated by Passe des Grenadines, Île Royale and Saint-Joseph Island by Passe de Désirade.
Between 1852 and 1953, the islands were part of a notorious penal colony for the worst criminals of France. The penal colony stretched along the border with Suriname. Île Royale was the reception centre for the general population of the penal colony; they were housed in moderate freedom due to the difficulty of escape from the island. Saint-Joseph Island was the Reclusion, where inmates were sent to be punished by solitary confinement in silence and darkness for escapes or offences committed in the penal colony. Devil's Island was for political prisoners. In the 19th century, the most famous such prisoner was Captain Alfred Dreyfus from 1895 to 1899 after his conviction in metropolitan France for treason.
This penal colony was controversial given its reputation for harshness and brutality. Prisoner upon prisoner violence was common, tropical diseases would kill many, and a small core of broken survivors would return to France to tell how horrible it was and scare other potential criminals. This system was gradually phased out and ended completely in 1953. Nowadays the islands are a popular tourist destination. The islands were featured in the autobiography Papillon, by Henri Charrière. He was imprisoned here for 9 years. Joseph Conrad's short story An Anarchist (1906) is largely set in Salvation's Islands.
- "Sites & Espaces Protégée" (PDF). Government of French Guiana (in French). p. 54. Retrieved 24 March 2021.