World France says watering down visa deal that gives Algerians...

France says watering down visa deal that gives Algerians preferential status is on the agenda

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Ms Borne’s remarks came as Emmanuel Macron’s government is struggling to secure support for a key immigration bill that will next week reach parliament, where he lacks an absolute majority.

He requires the support of the conservative Republicans party, which has accused the centrist leader of “hypocrisy” on the issue.

A case in point, they said, was the fact that the Macron camp refused to back a parliamentary resolution they tabled on Thursday to unilaterally “denounce” the 1968 treaty.

“We want to put an end to this legal exception, which makes it easier for Algerian nationals to immigrate to our country,” they wrote. It was in effect an “automatic immigration right”, the lawmakers argued.

‘Little point angering our Algerian friends’

While the resolution was supported by the National Rally, Mr Macron’s Renaissance party voted against it, arguing that the move would inflame tensions with Algeria at a time when ties with its former colony are thawing.

Mathieu Lefèvre, a Renaissance MP, said that while he agreed the accord was “totally obsolete”, there was “little point angering our Algerian friends and you don’t do diplomacy in parliament in the president’s place”.

However, in an embarrassment to Mr Macron, Horizons, a centre-Right group in the president’s parliamentary alliance run by Edouard Philippe, his former prime minister, backed the resolution.

“Maintaining such a system with a country with which we have complicated relations no longer seems justified to me,” Mr Philippe told French news magazine L’Express in June.

Adding pressure on Mr Macron, France’s former ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt, said: “No coherent migratory policy is possible without denouncing the Franco-Algerian accord.”

‘Political decision-makers are petrified’

Algerians are the largest immigrant group in France, with almost 900,000 living in the country in 2022.

“Our political decision-makers are petrified as soon as you mention Algeria because Algeria for France is both a question of foreign policy and domestic policy. Like Israel,” Mr Driencourt told L’Opinion newspaper.

France’s relationship with Algeria has long been rocky.

Mr Macron tried to lift the lid on simmering resentment by branding French colonisation a “crime against humanity” in 2017. He then set up a commission to look into alleged abuses carried out by French occupiers and publicly recognised the torture and killing of Ali Boumendjel, a nationalist, during the war.

‘Hatred towards France’

However, ties deteriorated when Mr Macron questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the French occupation, and accused the government of fomenting “hatred towards France”.

In September 2021, tensions rose further when Paris slashed visa quotas to Algeria and Morocco by 50 per cent in a bid to pressure the countries to take back illegal immigrants.

A year later it restored visa rates to both countries, along with Tunisia, which had had a 30 per cent fall.

Mr Macron’s immigration bill will begin being debated in the French parliament on Monday.

But Left-wingers have already rejected the move to expel more people and toughen conditions for irregular migrants, while conservatives have criticised provisions to offer legal residency to undocumented workers in sectors with labour shortages.

If Mr Macron fails to muster sufficient support from the Right, he could bypass a parliamentary vote, which would be contentious given the importance of the bill.

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