Algeria and Morocco angered after France’s decision to reduce the number of visas granted to citizens of both countries.
France announced on Tuesday reducing the number of visas for citizens of Morocco and Algeria by half, and the number of visas for Tunisian citizens by a third.
France accused the three North African countries of failing to cooperate on the deportation of its citizens whose visas were refused.
Algeria summoned the French ambassador to “officially protest” against the move.
The special envoy of the Algerian Foreign Ministry in charge of the issue of the Sahara and the Maghreb countries, Amar Blani, told the official Algerian News Agency that the French decision was “inconsistent” and “inappropriate.”
Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, described the decision as “unjustified”, and said that his country “has always acted responsibly on the issue of illegal immigration.”
There was no immediate comment from the Tunisian authorities.
On Tuesday, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal admitted that the decision was “severe” and “unprecedented”.
Atal added, in an interview with “Europe 1” radio, that the decision became “necessary because these countries do not accept the return of nationals we do not want and we cannot keep in France.”
He continued, “There was a dialogue, then there were threats, and today we are implementing those threats.”
Agence France-Presse reported that if a visa application is refused, the French authorities must secure a consular permit in order to forcibly repatriate individuals.
The French government said that this document was not provided by Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia.
French media indicated that during the first six months of this year, only 22 Algerians were expelled from French territory, despite the rejection of 7,731 visa applications. 80 Moroccans were expelled despite 3,301 visa applications being rejected. As for Tunisia, 131 of its citizens were expelled in exchange for 3,424 visa applications failed.
Immigration is one of the crucial issues in next year’s French presidential elections.
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