Reducing French visas to Maghreb countries is a “biased” method

The French method which consists in reducing the number of visas granted to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians to put pressure on their governments, deemed uncooperative on the readmission of Maghrebians expelled from France, divides observers. Admittedly, it is “effective” but some experts qualify it as “biased”.

The method is criticized in the Maghreb. France recently announced the reduction in the number of visas granted to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians to put pressure on their governments, deemed uncooperative on the readmission of North Africans expelled from France. If the method “works” according to Paris, several experts qualify it as “biased”. “There was a dialogue, then there were threats. Today we are putting this threat into action,” thundered government spokesman Gabriel Attal last week on a morning radio show.

According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior communicated to AFP, Algeria issued 31 consular passes between January and July 2021 for 7,731 obligations to leave France (OQTF) pronounced, and 22 expulsions carried out, i.e. a execution rate of 0.2%. This rate is 2.4% for OQTF concerning Moroccan nationals, and 4% for Tunisians.

A “classic” showdown

Linking the quantity of visas issued by France to the number of consular laissez-passer issued by the Maghreb countries – necessary for the readmission of their nationals – is “a completely classic measure, which has been done for decades”, decrypts a diplomatic source close to the case. “We are responding to a non-response”, after “months of sterile discussions”.

“It is very badly received” on the other side of the Mediterranean, recognizes the diplomatic source, “but it creates a balance of power”. “We know it works, otherwise we wouldn’t.”

According to the French Ministry of the Interior, similar pressures, which had not been made public, were implemented in 2018. They had resulted in “a clear increase in the number of consular passes issued “.

An “effective” threat

The expulsions had then experienced a “significant increase”: + 65% to Algeria in 2019 compared to 2017, + 57% to Morocco and + 61% to Tunisia over the same period, we observe. to the ministry.

The visa weapon was therefore “effective before the pandemic”, and it is already showing results with Tunisia, with which “cooperation is improving” recently, according to this source.

Paris has thus confirmed an upcoming drop of 50% in the number of visas issued for Moroccans and Algerians and only 33% for Tunisians, their government having “demonstrated more goodwill gestures,” said the security source.

Algiers, whose relations with Paris are tumultuous, deplored a decision taken “without prior consultation”, which “includes the crippling anomaly of having been the subject of a media hype”, before summoning the French ambassador in Algeria.

An “unjustified” Paris decision

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita described the Paris decision as “unjustified”, Morocco managing the migration issue “with” a logic of responsibility and balance between facilitating the movement of people (.. .) and the fight against illegal migration “.

France’s approach is “biased” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, believes Matthieu Tardis, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations.

“We continued to issue OQTFs when we knew they would not be executed because of Covid-19”, he observes, “Algeria having reopened its borders very recently” this summer.

“We punish a part of the population that is not affected by migration”, also regrets Matthieu Tardis, often students, traders or tourists, in disproportionate proportions compared to the number of expelled.

Between January and July 2021, France accessed 8,726 of the 11,815 visa applications from Algeria (18,579 out of 24,191 for Morocco, 9,140 out of 12,921 for Tunisia), a figure well below pre-Covid queries. In 2019, Paris recorded more than a million visa applications from these three countries.

That same year, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco had investigated less than 4,300 requests for consular laissez-passer, for 32,000 expulsion measures pronounced by France.

Expensive renewals

The people concerned are “radical Islamists”, “delinquents” or people who “must simply leave the national territory”, said Wednesday the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin.

“They are rather undocumented”, nuance Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, researcher at the CNRS, for whom the solution to this problem is “to have less OQTF”.

Because renewals “are very expensive” (between “3 and 5,000 euros” per individual, who must be accompanied by two police officers), she lists. They lead to “burrs”, because the deportees “resist”, which means that they are “tied”, sometimes that they are “taped” in planes, she continues.

“We should pronounce less OQTF, but that we really apply them for those representing a public danger”, notes this specialist in the migratory phenomenon. “Wanting to expel people who work, who have created families, makes no sense.”

The limit on the number of visas was announced during the French pre-election campaign, which has already seen immigration become a key theme. “The renewal is the theatricalization of the policy,” she slices.

With AFP

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