In Senegal, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is investigating a network that would be behind the trafficking of visas issued to students. This is not the first time that visa trafficking has been dismantled.
The case caused a stir in Senegal. While the embassy announced a 250% increase in Schengen visa applications, irregularities were noted within the visa service of the French consulate in Dakar. Enough to bring the General Inspectorate of the Quai d'Orsay to launch an investigation.
Visa fraud, which involves falsification of documents, intermediaries who “sell” meeting slots but also by traffic linked to consular networks or service providers, is far from new.
In an information report by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, the former deputies M'jid El Guerrab and Sira Sylla classify visa trafficking in the category of simple "constraints" linked to the delivery of the famous sesame. But they omit — consciously? — to discuss trafficking due to consular networks and focus on “documentary fraud”.
20% to 30% of fraudulent files in Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire
In sub-Saharan Africa, two countries are at the forefront of fraud. "In countries like Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire, fraud is massive: it represents 20 to 30% of visa application files", assure elected officials who believe that "the difficulty linked to making appointments is accentuated by the proliferation of pharmacies which pre-empt all slots as soon as they open on the internet and 'resell' them to applicants”.
But we are talking about false documents. Why such omerta when it comes to denouncing networks within consulates? Fifteen years ago, seven agents of the French consulate in Moscow were sanctioned after the discovery of "anomalies in the processing of visas". In reality, the French consulate had accredited agencies which sold, for prices varying between 1 and 000 euros, visas by manufacturing false certificates. The French embassy had, at the time, refused to make the list public and preferred to stifle the affair.
Dematerialization, a solution?
The Dakar affair could well end in the same way. the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to act discreetly. According to sources close to the French consulate in Senegal, the traffic concerns the issuance of visas to students, against remuneration.
This traffic benefits from two factors: the difficulty, on the one hand, of obtaining a Schengen visa; the delays, sometimes very long, of the steps, on the other side. “These deadlines for making appointments are in practice imposed on service providers by consulates according to their ability to process requests within a few days. The visa processing phase at the consulate therefore constitutes the bottleneck of the visa application”, indicates a report of the French Senate of 2015.
What to do to avoid this juicy traffic? For former deputies M'jid El Guerrab and Sira Sylla, "dematerialization will put an end to the nightmare of the passport circuit - piled up in laundry basins sometimes weighing nearly 15 kilos, often transported manually - and archiving 'physical' of records". What, they assure, reduce the "re-entry" of files by service providers and consular agents and, undoubtedly, limit the risks of trafficking.