French president Emmanuel Macron is heading to Corsica for a two-day visit at a time when nationalists on the Mediterranean island are gaining influence.

Macron will start his visit by paying tribute to the late prefect Claude Erignac, who was shot dead on the island 20 years ago by pro-independence activists. Erignac was France's top official on the island.

Macron will then meet with nationalist leaders Gilles Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni.

Thousands of nationalists demonstrated Sunday ahead of Macron's visit, asking for more autonomy, equal status for the Corsican language and the release of Corsican prisoners held in mainland prisons.

In December, Corsican nationalists swept the election for a new regional assembly, crushing Macron's young centrist movement and traditional parties.

The nationalists want more autonomy but aren't seeking full independence.