‘It’s giving racism’: Moroccans frustrated over France’s ‘revenge visa’

4 min read
27 October, 2022

“It is dehumanising, humiliating, and racist,” said Samia, a 47-year-old Moroccan as she spoke to The New Arab on the process of getting a student visa to France for her 18-year-old daughter.

On an early Wednesday morning, dozens of parents and students stand waiting in front of the TLS contact Visa centre: the portal to “the promised land.”

Applying for a student visa to France is a tiring bureaucratic process that debuts at high school, and an investment that parents consider since the first months of marriage.

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After receiving an acceptance letter from the chosen university, the applicant must prove “financial ability” to sponsor their studies. 

Namely a bank account with at least 8,000 dollars in addition to submitting a list of “garants” (guarantors), preferably residing in France, who make more than 1,000 dollars per month, the higher the better, according to applicants' statements.

In a country where the minimum wage is around 200 US$, affording such fees is a challenging task for most Moroccan middle-class families, though many take loans or sacrifice savings and grandparents’ inherited jewellery to send their children to France.

"Applying for a student visa to France is a tiring bureaucratic process"

However, France’s recent decision to reduce visas granted to Morocco has made the Kafkaien process more unbearable.

Last year, France announced it would halve the number of visas available to Moroccans and Algerians, and reduce by a third those available to Tunisians. 

Paris accused the three North African countries of failing to cooperate over the return of their “illegal migrants”.

The decision was recently eased for Tunisia and Algeria. While Rabat, France’s ex-bestie, was excluded from ‘Paris mercy’.

“I have dreamt about this moment since I was 15. But now they put my dreams on freeze for some political revenge. It is giving racism,” said Mouad, a 23-year-old Master's student, who got his University acceptance letter but is still waiting for his visa.

But not only students are victims of France’s ‘do revenge visa’. 

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Reports said Moroccan former ministers, doctors, businessmen and artists were also denied the right to attend international conferences in the French lands over failing to get visas.

El Grande Toto, Moroccan rapper and the most streamed artist in MENA over Spotify, cancelled his tour earlier this year in France after many failed trials to get a visa for France.

Moroccan media said the rate of visa refusal for Moroccans reached 70% this year amid Paris-Rabat icy ties.

“What France is doing is an attack on the content of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Adil Tchikitou, President of the Moroccan League for Human Rights, told The New Arab.

On Thursday, October 4, Tchikitou took to the streets with dozens of activists and citizens who called on the Moroccan government to “punish” France over its “racist” policy.

"What France is doing is an attack on the content of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights"

“We call on France to stop insulting Moroccans, placing impossible conditions on them, imposing unfair fees on them, depriving them of visiting their relatives, participating in conferences, and their right of movement,” said Aziz Ghali, the President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), during the protest.

The Human Rights group has also called on the French embassy to pay back visa fees to Moroccan applicants.  

A call that France’s embassy in Rabat has yet to respond to.

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Last week, Catherine Colonna, France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, said migratory negotiations between Rabat and Paris over the ongoing visa restriction policy of the European country are well underway. Though She did not articulate further.

“The Minister of the Interior and I are happy about this. The recent negotiations with Morocco are making progress. We hope that we can continue to move forward in order to put an end to this situation,” said the French minister.

Since 2021, the relationship between the historic allies Paris and Rabat has been an undefined territory. 

Reports explain the one-year-long icy ties with the Pegasus scandal and the Western Sahara dispute.

Last year, the Daily French newspaper Le Monde reported that the phone numbers for President Macron and the then-government members were identified among thousands allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance. 

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In this case, the client was an unidentified Moroccan security service that was at the centre of the scandal, according to Le Monde. Rabat has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Rabat has been urging all its ‘real friends’ to prove their loyalty by taking a stand on Western Sahara. In the last years, Paris remained silent on the dispute that fuels the Moroccan-Algerian rivalry.

As France’s president Emmanuel Macron endeavours to mend ties with gas-rich Algeria during the worldwide energy crisis, many commentators assume that Paris has already picked its side in the Moroccan-Algerian frenemies sequel.

Basma El Atti is The New Arab's correspondent from Morocco  

Follow her on Twitter: @elattibasma