France makes ‘drastic’ decision to cull visas for Maghreb nationals over region’s refusal to ‘take back people that we don’t want’

The French government has said it is slashing the number of visas available for people from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, complaining that those countries are not taking back the migrants that France does not want to keep.

On Tuesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal told French Europe 1 radio that Paris was taking action against its former North African colonies as they were refusing to take back illegal migrants sent home by the French authorities. 

Attal said the government was halving the number of visas available for nationals from Algeria and Morocco, while visas available to those from Tunisia would be cut by almost a third. 

“It is a drastic decision, and unprecedented, but one made necessary by the fact that these countries are refusing to take back nationals who we do not want or cannot keep in France,” the spokesman said.  

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According to Europe 1, President Emmanuel Macron made the decision a month ago after negotiations with the North African nations failed to deliver. “There was dialogue, then there were threats, and today we’re carrying out those threats,” Attal stated on Tuesday, adding that they hoped the aforementioned nations would enhance their cooperation with Paris. 

Attal’s comments come as political parties start positioning themselves for the 2022 presidential election, in which immigration is likely to play a major role. 

On Monday, Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen vowed to call a referendum proposing severe limits on immigration if she is elected next year.

“The referendum will propose a complete draft bill that will aim to drastically regulate immigration,” Le Pen told France 2 television.

Despite the popularity of her movement, Le Pen has always trailed more mainstream parties in the second round of voting, in which the top two candidates from the first round are pitted against each other, if neither had secured a majority in the first round. A survey conducted by research institute Odoxa last week suggested Macron would win the second round against Le Pen with 58% of the vote. 

In 2017, Len Pen reached the second round of the presidential election, losing to now-president Macron who won more than 66% of the vote.

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