The tensions began on Tuesday, September 28, when Paris announced that it will now issue half the number of visas to Moroccan and Algerian nationals, and that for Tunisians, the quota will be reduced by 30%. All without hiding that it is a retaliatory measure. Because according to France, these three countries are not playing the game of migration policy. When immigrants in an irregular situation or involved in radicalization processes are sent back to their country, Rabat, Algiers and Tunis are reluctant: only about thirty individuals have been accepted since the beginning of the year in Algeria, for several thousand requests of refoulement on the part of France.

The figures for these expulsion procedures initiated by the authorities (the “obligations to leave French territory”) are the only ones to have increased during the Covid-19 crisis: between January 1 and July 2021, 7,731 Algerians have been targeted by these OQTFs.

Tunisia has not officially responded, but Morocco deplored a measure “unjustified“.

But of the three Maghreb countries, it is Algeria which reacts the most violently. Algiers does not digest either the principle or the method. In a press release, published on September 28, the Foreign Ministry began by denouncing a decision taken “without prior consultation with the Algerian party”, and who above all “contains the crippling anomaly of having been the subject of a media hype generating confusion and ambiguity as to its motivations and its scope“.

He also lamented an “aunfortunate event that strikes with precariousness and uncertainty a sensitive area of ​​cooperation“between the two countries, before summoning the French ambassador, François Gouyette, who was notified on September 29 of a “formal protest“.

However, the authorities have no reason to be surprised: Paris has been sending explicit messages for a long time. In November 2020, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, even made the trip to Tunis and Algiers to raise this issue.

The reprisal for restricting visas was already in the pipeline, publicly mentioned at the same time by the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune. The wait for Paris will therefore have lasted almost a year.

Why so much anger on the part of Algeria? Because this measure is a diplomatic snub. Algiers also made it a political decision, linked to the context of the pre-campaign for the presidential election, already dominated by the theme of immigration.

It is not yet known which profiles will be targeted by the visa restriction; undoubtedly the ruling circles, primarily responsible for this situation. But that does not prevent the anxiety from rising among companies, students, families who are used to moving from one country to another, and who are already very affected by the closure of the borders which has lasted. several months due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Many Algerians have had the impression of receiving a sledgehammer, and paying for stakes that are beyond them.

Especially since in the end, this measure may turn out to be counterproductive. Some Algerians plan to try their luck elsewhere, to look for another Schengen visa from the German, Italian, Belgian or Spanish consulates.
This is a bad signal which will certainly not encourage investors, which Algeria badly needs, and which will not contribute to strengthening the links between the two shores of the Mediterranean either.

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