French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin states that France is doing “better” than its neighbours, citing comparatively low recognition rates. The French government will cut visas for Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisian nationals as a punitive measure to push the North African countries to cooperate on deportations. The Strasbourg Bar Association in eastern France has condemned the transfer of four Afghans to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation despite the country not officially suspending deportations to Afghanistan.

Minister Darmanin stated on 23 September that France was doing better than its neighbours on immigration citing a recognition rate of 30 per cent compared to 50 per cent in Germany. According to the minister, Germany has two times more foreigners than France and also the double amount of people staying irregularly. In his response, French asylum expert Laurent Delbos contested the minister’s “deeply shocking” perception of asylum which treated the fundamental right to protection enshrined in the European legal framework as a simple political parameter for “success” on immigration. Further, Delbos noted that the minister used inaccurate figures and failed to consider the variety of nationalities involved and types of protection granted.

The French government has announced it will cut visas for Moroccans and Algerians by 50 per cent, and by 30 per cent for Tunisians. Morocco represents the highest number of visa requests to France. Of 24,191 requests from Moroccans in the first half of 2021, 18,579 were accepted. 12,921 requests were made by Tunisian nationals of which 9,140 were accepted, and Algerians made 11,815 requests with 8,726 accepted. During the same period 3,301 Moroccans, 7,731 Algerians and 3,424 Tunisians in France were given an expulsion order with less than 250 people actually returning to the three countries. People cannot be deported without formal nationality documents, and according to the French government the limited issuing of consular documents for people without papers from the North-African states is an administrative complication. According to government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal the decision to limit access to visas while unprecedented and drastic: “is made necessary as these countries do not accept back nationals whom we do not want and cannot keep in France”. The spokesperson did not reveal the length of the punitive measures but expressed hope that it would push Maghreb countries to cooperate.

The Strasbourg Bar Association in eastern France condemn the Dublin transfer of four Afghan nationals by French authorities to Bulgaria, a country that has not suspended deportations to Afghanistan despite the Taliban taking control of the country. A Strasbourg judge ordered the release of the four from administrative detention on 26 September. The prosecutor’s office appealed this decision, with a hearing scheduled for the afternoon of Monday 27 September. However, “without even waiting for the court hearing, the services of the prefecture forced the Afghan detainees to take a plane to Bulgaria at dawn on Monday morning,” said Christina Kruger, President of the Strasbourg Bar Association. According to the Bas-Rhin prefecture: “the public prosecutor’s appeal was suspended, which allows this operation to be carried out legally”. But the Bar Association defines the transfer as a “defiance of a court decision” and further states that it is “indignant that the administration, despite generating a lot of publicity, is removing vulnerable Afghan nationals in this manner”. According to the Ministry of Interior as of mid-September “about 20” Afghans had been Dublin transferred to another European country since the regime change in August.

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Photo by Radek Homola on Unsplash

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.