A number of countries, especially north-west African nations, are reluctant to issue consular papers for their undocumented nationals in France. These papers are needed for deportation. The problem is particularly acute for irregular migrants on terror watch-lists who are not wanted back in their home countries. To speed up expulsions, France has threatened to reduce visas to the countries in question.
French authorities have threatened to reduce the number of visas granted to citizens of countries that are reluctant to take back their undocumented nationals, particularly those on radicalization watch-lists.
"These countries must be told that they must take back people who are identified as their nationals," said French Minister of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune in an interview with Radio Europe 1.
"We have levers to do this, for example visas ... by targeting political leaders, economic leaders. Yes, this is one of the levers that the president of the republic [and] the interior minister are considering," he added.
The issue of deportations has taken a particularly acute turn in France following the October 29 jihadist attack at a church in southern French city of Nice. The attacker, a Tunisian migrant who arrived in Europe just a month before the attack, killed three people in Nice’s Notre-Dame basilica.
Not a simple process
Deporting an undocumented person is not a simple process especially when the individual does not have or no longer has his or her papers.
First of all, from an administrative point of view, a person without nationality cannot be expelled. The individual’s country of origin must therefore recognize him or her and agree to take their national back. This recognition is established by the source country issuing a "consular laissez-passer" (LPC in administrative jargon). However, these documents are issued in dribs and drabs by the countries concerned.
Expulsion is therefore not automatic. Without a consular laissez-passer, no expulsion is possible since France, under international law, cannot create stateless persons.
Secondly, from a political point of view, many countries are reluctant to take back their nationals who are considered radicalized or "terrorists".
This is notably the case in the Francophone north-west African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, which are reluctant to bring potential criminals back to their soil. According to the French interior ministry, France has 231 foreigners on a radicalization watch-list, including about 60 Tunisians, as many Moroccans and a few more Algerians. The ministry said it has made their deportation a priority.