In Morocco, anger rumbles over French visa refusals

Toufiq still can’t believe it: “My son Mohamed has just passed his baccalaureate with honors. He always dreamed of brilliant studies. The faculty he wanted to join in France had given his agreement, but he was refused his visa! » However, Mohamed had carefully compiled the thick file required for a student visa application. » It was not enough. My son plunged into a deep depression. As a matter of urgency, he is now looking for a solution in Morocco,” Toufiq is saddened.

A year ago, Gabriel Attal, then spokesperson for the French government, announced a “drastic decision” halving the number of visas issued in Morocco and Algeria, and 30% in Tunisia, compared to 2020, which was already very restrictive due to the pandemic. The reason given? The three countries « do not agree to take back their nationals » in an irregular situation in France.

Since then, anger has continued to rise in public opinion. Testimonies of visa refusals are multiplying, even if many are reluctant to speak out, whether they are depressed, humiliated or fearing retaliatory measures.

« We have the impression that there is no objective criterion of acceptance or refusal »

If the French Embassy assured the weekly As is that Moroccan students « benefit from special attention », cases similar to that of Mohamed are numerous. « Some of our students wanted to continue their studies on the school’s French campus », reports a manager of a French higher education institution based in Morocco.

“Only part of them obtained their visa, while the files were all very similar. We have the impression that there are no objective criteria for acceptance or refusal,” she wonders.

Tarik Talha, a 33-year-old computer scientist, should have accompanied children in cancer remission to France in June at the Sails of Hope, a humanitarian event. “The children had their visa, but only two of the four accompanying persons. It’s incomprehensible « , he is indignant.

Go through Spain to avoid the French refusal

While France is Morocco’s second largest trading partner, visa denials to Moroccan businessmen and women are becoming commonplace and could weigh on economic relations between the two countries. “My printer husband has always turned to Europe and, in particular, France for his business. He is starting to seriously look at other markets, given the situation,” testifies Mariam Bakkali.

She herself cherishes France: “I immersed myself in his literature. My first trip to Paris was very emotional. » However, she went to Spain to obtain a Schengen visa, for fear of not being able to see her two daughters who are studying in France. « I didn’t want to take any risks. However, I had been obtaining French visas for twenty years,” she laments. If she was able to quickly obtain her visa, now, the appointment platform offers almost no more slots for the next few months. Especially since a lucrative market of intermediaries who block appointments to resell them is flourishing.

Relations are at their lowest between France and Morocco

The image of France is deteriorating even among the most Francophiles. “We have claimed the reimbursement of the expenses (around 100 to 150 €, editor’s note) for applicants who meet all the conditions and who are nevertheless refused”, argues Bouazza Kherrati, president of the Moroccan Federation of Consumer Rights, who has since been dismissed.

While the noose on visas is loosening timidly with Algeria and Tunisia, nothing better can be seen between France and Morocco. Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to the Algerian rival, the French position on Western Sahara, or the Pegasus scandal – named after software that would have made it possible to spy on French leaders, revealed by Forbidden Stories in 2021 – could explain the cold between the two states. According to a diplomatic source, a return to normal can only be decided« at the highest peak ».


Visa restrictions for the Maghreb

For Moroccans. 69,408 visas were issued in 2021, compared to 98,627 in 2020 and 346,032 in 2019, an 80% drop in two years.

For Algerians. 63,649 visas issued in 2021, 73,276 in 2020, 274,421 in 2019 and 413,976 in 2017, a drop of 77% in two years and 85% in four years.

For Tunisians. 46,069 visas in 2021, compared to 49,458 in 2020 and 145,846 in 2019, i.e. a drop of 69% in two years.

The French Ministry of the Interior did not want to communicate figuresfor 2022, except for Algeria before Emmanuel Macron’s trip at the end of August. During the first seven months, 75,000 visas were granted to Algerians, indicating a slight improvement.


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