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France to slash visas for North African citizens over immigration spat

Citizens from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco will face tougher restrictions following diplomatic spat

Morocco has criticised a move by the French government to toughen the visa requirement for North African migrants, branding it "unjustified."

The move reportedly came about as a result of French anger over Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria's "refusal" to accept deported immigrants from France.

Citizens of all three countries will now face tougher restrictions, with the number of visas issued slashed by 50 percent for Morocco and Algeria and 30 percent for Tunisia.

On Tuesday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita slammed the French move.

"Morocco has always managed the migration issue and the flow of people, with a logic of responsibility and balance between facilitating the movement of people...and the fight against illegal migration," he said, during a press conference alongside his Mauritanian counterpart Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

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"The decision (of France) is sovereign. Morocco will study it, but the reasons which justify it require precision, a dialogue, because they do not reflect reality."

'A drastic decision'

The tightening of visas comes less than seven months before the presidential election in France, in the midst of a debate on immigration.

"It is a drastic decision, it is an unprecedented decision, but it is a decision made necessary by the fact that these countries do not accept to take back nationals that we do not want and cannot keep in France," said French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal speaking on the Europe-1 Radio station.

Attal said France had been trying to negotiate with the north African countries to find a resolution.

Between January and July, French judicial authorities ordered 7,731 Algerians to leave French territory because they didn’t have residency authorisation

However, Europe-1 reported that only 22 departed because many lacked the necessary documents from Algeria.

Bourita said his country had issued 400 consular documents to Moroccans facing expulsion from France, but that the number was limited because many of them had refused to take a Covid-19 test.

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