France will slash the number of visas available to nationals from Maghreb countries because of their governments’ refusal to take back illegal migrants sent home by the French authorities, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Tuesday.
Immigration is becoming a key campaign issue for the French presidential election set for April next year, with right-wing and far-right parties challenging centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s policies. Macron has not yet said whether he will stand for re-election.
“It is a decision that is made necessary as these countries do not accept back nationals whom we do not want and cannot keep in France,” he told French Europe 1 radio.
Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita told reporters in Rabat the decision was “unjustified” and “does not reflect the reality of consular cooperation in the fight against irregular migration”.
French Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Monday she would call a referendum proposing drastic limits on immigration if she was elected president next year.
Le Pen said on France 2 television the referendum would propose strict criteria for entering French territory and for acquiring French nationality, as well as giving French citizens priority access to social housing, jobs and social security benefits.
In 2017, she made it to the second round of the presidential election, but was defeated by Macron, who won more than 66% of the vote.