The announcement fell like a hammer for the Moroccans. France has decided to reduce by 50% the number of visas granted to Moroccan and Algerian nationals, and by 30% those granted to Tunisians. “We are carrying out our threats”, said Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman, Tuesday, September 28 on the antennas of Europe 1.
The decision of Paris, justified by the refusal of the Maghreb countries to repatriate their nationals in an irregular situation on French territory, particularly offended the Moroccan government, long considered to be the good student of migration cooperation with Europe.
“This decision is unjustified”, said the head of Moroccan diplomacy, Nasser Bourita, at a press conference on Tuesday. “Morocco has always managed the migration issue and the flow of people with a logic of responsibility and balance”, he regretted, adding that the French decision did not reflect “The reality of consular cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal immigration”.
For several years, the subject of the expulsion of migrants in an irregular situation has gripped the French authorities. According to figures provided by the Ministry of the Interior, between January and July 2021, the administration only managed to expel to Morocco 80 nationals who entered illegally out of the 3,301 obligations to leave French territory issued by the prefectures. A figure disputed by Rabat, which claims to have granted “400 laissez-passer for the benefit of people in an irregular situation” during “First eight months of the current year”.
“It is not because we have a Maghrebian head that we are necessarily Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian! », M’jid El Guerrab, deputy of the 9e constituency of French people abroad
In France, expulsion procedures remain subject to strict rules. To return an irregular person to his country of origin, it is first necessary to prove his nationality. However, the migrants concerned very often conceal their origin.
“It is not because we have a Maghrebian head that we are necessarily Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian! And these countries cannot serve as a spillway for other nationalities that the French do not want. But when Moroccan nationality, for example, is proven, their consular authorities always issue the laissez-passer ”, assures M’jid El Guerrab, deputy of the 9e constituency of French people living abroad (Maghreb and part of West Africa).
“By making the countries of the Maghreb take the hat off, we are shifting the problem: whether they are of good will or not, this will only partially change the rate of expulsions., explains for his part the sociologist specializing in migration, Mehdi Alioua. If people who have just arrived in the territory are more easily deported, the situation is much more delicate for those who have resided in France for years and who often have a job, a family, their life there. ”
Decision experienced as collective punishment
This year, a new obstacle has been added to these administrative difficulties. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Moroccan kingdom now requires a negative PCR test to be able to access its territory, but many people in an irregular situation refuse to submit to it. “In France, there is no law which obliges someone to take a PCR test”, recalls M’jid El Guerrab. Gold, “Morocco will not agree to change its laws either” , warned Nasser Bourita.
Experienced as a collective punishment by Moroccan public opinion, the decision in Paris, announced a few months before the French presidential election, ignited social networks. “The visa is a very very sensitive subject among people who love France and who have the impression of paying for it”, can we read on Twitter. “The decision is as humiliating as the condescending tone used by Gabriel Attal. We punish all Arabs, even those who meet the already drastic conditions to obtain a visa! “, deplores a user on Facebook.
The tightening of the granting of visas should thus affect many Moroccans who regularly travel to France with a Schengen visa. Among them, applicants whose part of the family lives in France, such as mixed divorced couples who want to visit their children who have remained in France. In 2019, the administration issued 346,000 visas to Moroccans for tourism, professional, health or study reasons. With 43,000 people, Moroccans form the first community of foreign students in France, ahead of the Chinese.
“It’s a very clumsy weapon that collectively punishes a country. Above all, we cannot compare these people, who have a strong history with France, and whose language they speak, to irregular people. There is a racialist amalgam here ”, denounces Mehdi Alioua, associate professor at the International University of Rabat.
How the government will implement these changes remains to be seen. “Each visa refusal must be justified by a pre-established reason in a list. They are not going to invent a new motive invoking the country’s non-collaboration in the fight against illegal immigration! “, remarks the deputy M’jid El Guerrab.