Moroccan Rokaya Ben Zekri did not understand the reasons why the Paris consulate in Rabat deprived her of a "Schengen" visa, even though it is not the first time she has visited France.

Ruqayya traveled to this European country 3 times to visit her daughter without facing the slightest difficulties in obtaining the visa, but this year she was refused after two attempts.

She tells Al Jazeera Net, "I could not be next to my daughter, she needed me, as she was alone during her difficult birth, and after that she remained in the hospital for a period of time receiving medical care, and the decision prevented me from continuing treatment with a French doctor."

She adds with sadness that she did not expect her file to be rejected despite her strength, and her frequent travel to France and Spain on a Schengen visa.

The mother explains, "My file has all the guarantees. My daughter and her husband have French citizenship, and I have traveled and returned several times."

She considered that the refusal was not justified, but rather "political reasons", noting that the expenses for preparing the file and the fees amounted to 4 thousand dirhams each time, equivalent to about 400 dollars, and the response was negative both times.

Five months ago, a number of Moroccan ophthalmologists were on a date with an annual medical conference called by the French Society of Ophthalmology, but they were surprised by the refusal to grant them a Schengen visa despite meeting the necessary conditions, which sparked outrage in the medical community.

The president of the Moroccan Society of Ophthalmology, Mohamed Bennani, denounced this treatment, and wrote to his French counterpart, surprising that doctors were denied visas and attending the conference, considering that this would affect scientific cooperation between the two countries.

The protesters considered the French embassy's refusal to grant entry visas harmful to their interests (Al-Jazeera)

suspended interests

The refusal of visas included doctors, businessmen, artists, students and sick citizens, which fueled anger among Moroccans, as they considered these unusual practices "humiliating and harmful to their interests."

Others criticized the French consular interests' accumulation of Moroccan citizens' money at the expense of their suspended interests, and their rejected requests.

The application for a long-term residence visa costs a fee of up to 100 euros compared to 80 euros for a short-stay visa, in addition to the fee for setting the appointment and the rest of the costs of preparing the file, which are fees that are not refunded after the rejection of the file.

This anger went beyond the virtual spaces, where various stories were circulating about disrupting the interests of many who were affected by the decisions to refuse visas to the field.

Yesterday, Tuesday, a variety of human rights activists participated in a protest sit-in called by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights in front of the headquarters of the European Union mission in Rabat.

The protesters described the practices of the consular services as "blackmail and racism" and as "French contempt" for Moroccan citizens.

They called on the European Union to intervene to stop the "harassment" practiced by the French authorities on Moroccans.

The headquarters of the European Union in Rabat, where the protesters demanded to intervene to stop the French abuses against Moroccans (Al-Jazeera)

Abuses and abuse of the right of movement

Adel Chikito, head of the Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights - told Al Jazeera Net - that they had sent the Human Rights Committee at the United Nations, to intervene in the face of what he described as the discriminatory and racist measures of the French authorities against Moroccans.

He highlighted that France targets a basic right of Moroccans, which is the right of movement, pointing out that the political dispute between the two countries should be resolved at the table of dialogue and negotiations, away from harming the interests and rights of citizens.

He said, "Instead of dialogue with officials in the Kingdom, France decided to punish the Moroccan citizen, knowing that most of those wishing to obtain a visa do not aim for tourism, but rather have connections in this country."

The head of the Moroccan Human Rights League stressed the need for the European Union to intervene to stop the abuses that affect the rights of Moroccans.

The French authorities announced last year to reduce the number of visas granted to citizens of Morocco and Algeria by 50%, and Tunisia by 30%, but they canceled the decision for Algerians and Tunisians.

Paris attributed this decision to Morocco's lack of cooperation in returning irregular migrants, which Rabat denied, and the Kingdom's foreign minister considered it "unjustified."

Demands for the European Union to respect the right of movement (Al-Jazeera)

Decreased number of visas

In recent years, the number of visas granted by the French consulates in Morocco has decreased significantly.

According to the reports of the General Directorate of Foreigners in France of the Interior, the number of visas granted to Moroccans before 2020 exceeded 300,000 visas annually, 323,000 in 2017, 330,000 in 2018, and 342,000 in 2019.

However, this number decreased by 70% in 2020, and reached 97,572 due to the tightening of travel restrictions during the Covid pandemic.

After opening the borders and the return of movement between countries in 2021, the number of visas granted to Moroccans remained low, as it did not exceed 69,408, and the figures for the year 2022 will not be released until next January.

Moroccan media quoted a consular source as saying that this year, between 70% and 80% of Schengen visa applications were rejected.

The head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, Aziz Ghali, said that they had received complaints from citizens affected by the denial of visas, which prompted the association to call for a protest in front of the European Union headquarters.

He added - in an interview with Al Jazeera Net - that many of the complaints relate to patients who had medical appointments and links with French health institutions and were unable to follow up on their treatment, and students who received admission from French universities and were unable to travel.

Ghali pointed out that the matter is not limited to the French consular interests, but rather concerns the embassies of other countries such as Spain, Belgium and Poland to a lesser extent.

It is likely that the European Union has decided to reduce the visas granted to Moroccans, under pressure from right-wing currents that have become influential in its institutions and a number of European governments, and are pressing to repudiate Europe's commitments with neighboring countries.

"If Europe is looking for its interests, it must also fulfill its obligations within the framework of the neighborhood policy," said the president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.