France slashes visas for Maghreb countries over illegal migration

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France is facing backlash from northwest Africa for cutting the number of visas available to the Maghreb countries.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the decision was made because regional governments had refused to take back illegal migrants.

The move followed up a pledge on France’s immigration policies, less than seven months before the presidential election.

Attal said that the granting of visas will be tightened for nationals of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in the coming weeks.

“It is a drastic decision, an unprecedented decision, but it is a decision made necessary by the fact that these countries do not accept to take back nationals that we do not want and cannot keep in France,” he told Europe1.

Attal confirmed that there would be a 50% drop in the number of visas issued for Moroccan and Algerian nationals and 33% for those from Tunisia.

The move has been welcomed by many right-leaning politicians in France amid fresh debate on immigration ahead of the 2022 election.

But the Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita has deplored the decision, calling it “unjustified”.

“Morocco has always managed the migration issue and the flow of people, with a logic of responsibility and balance between facilitating the movement of people … and the fight against illegal migration,” Bourita said.

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“This decision is sovereign … the reasons that justify it require precision, a dialogue, because they do not reflect reality,” he added.

But the French government had said they had failed to negotiate on the matter of migration with the Maghreb countries.

“There was a dialogue, then there were threats. Today we are carrying out this threat,” Attal said.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions between France and northwest Africa in recent months.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was investigating the suspected widespread use of NSO’s Pegasus spyware to eavesdrop on the French president Emmanuel Macron.

Morocco’s government has denied reports that their security forces may have been involved in the incident.

Meanwhile, Macron has apologised to the Harkis, Muslim Algerian soldiers who fought alongside French colonial forces in Algeria’s war for independence and were then massacred and ostracised as traitors.

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