France’s current migration policy continues to hamper the entry and travel of Moroccan citizens to the European country. Almost a year after the announcement by Paris of the reduction of visas for Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the people of the Kingdom continue to complain about the rejection of their requests without convincing justification.
Public and private sector workers such as engineers, doctors, former ministers but also students have tried to obtain a French visa without success, provoking outrage in Moroccan society. “I am deprived of the right to travel, something fundamental”, wrote on Twitter a citizen who lived for 15 years in France, according to Jeune Afrique.
In addition to arousing indignation and anger, this measure is perceived as a humiliation, as Hajar points out to Middle East Eye. “It’s the first time that I’ve been refused a visa,” says the Moroccan, who recalls that all his previous stays in the Schengen area “went well”. “What risk do I represent for France? It’s incomprehensible,” he adds.
Many Moroccan citizens took to social media to express their anger and denounce their situation. Some of these stories went viral and even reached former members of the French government, who expressed their solidarity with those affected.
Cécile Duflot, former Minister for Territorial Equality and Housing in the government of former President François Hollande, appealed to the French Embassy in Morocco, attaching the story of a boy who regrets that his mother and grandmother were unable to attend a relative’s wedding in Paris after being refused a visa. “The administration sometimes lacks heart, but there are always people who can solve problems”Duflot wrote in a tweet mentioning the French diplomatic delegation.
Dear @AmbaFranceMorocco the administrative machine sometimes lacks heart or discernment but there are always humans able to solve problems 🙏🏼 (and to let a mother and a grandmother attend a wedding…) https://t.co /a0wEXL6UQ5
— Cecile Duflot (@CecileDuflot) August 2, 2022
The Moroccan media also echoed this situation and denounced this “humiliation”. The newspaper Bladi, for example, accuses France of “humiliating former Moroccan ministers” and, based on the opinions of Moroccan internet users, raises the possibility that Morocco imposes visas on French nationals wishing to travel to the Kingdom. However, some French media have also reported on this problem. The famous daily newspaper Le Monde, for example, published an article including testimonies of those affected under the title “Not worthy of France”. In the report, the newspaper claims that this measure is as if “a wall between two countries” had been erected.
Meanwhile, the Alawite parliament called on the government of Aziz Akhannouch to defend “Moroccan dignity”. During an intervention before the Chamber of Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, Fatima Tamni, deputy of the Federation of the Democratic Left, indicated that France is moving towards a reduction in the number of visas “without reasonable justification, surrounded by ‘a logic of great ambiguity, in particular with regard to the collection of rights and sums of money’.
These last years, Moroccans have experienced a drop in French visas. According to data from the French Interior Ministry collected by Al Arab, around 98,000 Moroccan applications were accepted in 2020, compared to 346,000 in 2019, 303,000 in 2018 and 295,000 in 2017.
A “silent” diplomatic crisis
France’s position, in addition to affecting Moroccan citizens wishing to travel to the Gallic country, could harm relations between Rabat and Paris. In fact, Moroccan analysts and journalists such as Al Arab’s Mohamed Mamouni Al Allawi consider the current situation a “silent diplomatic crisis”.
Hajar agrees, noting that “all the ties that have taken decades to forge will be broken little by little”. In addition to visa restrictions, this “silent” crisis is compounded by France’s doubts about the diversification of Morocco’s strategic partners, according to Al Allawi.
Furthermore, these restrictions harm the external image of France, particularly with countries in the region, as Moroccan international analyst Hicham Motad explains to the Arab daily. Motad also notes that these measures reflect “the magnitude of the catastrophic failure of French policy in managing the migration file”.
In September 2021, Paris decided to reduce visas for the three Maghreb countries after they refused to accept the return of their nationals who were subject to deportation proceedings. The spokesman for the French government at the time, Gabriel Attal, described the measure as “a drastic and unprecedented decision, but also a necessary decision”. Paris has chosen to reduce visas by 50% for Moroccans and Algerians and by 30% for Tunisians.
Attal argued that these countries do not agree to welcome their citizens, whom they “cannot keep” in France. In response, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs described this measure as “unjustified decision” which “does not reflect the reality of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal immigration”.