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Current Trends Around Algerian Changing Migration Pattern

Poor economic conditions and the lack of employment opportunities cause Africans to continually experience irregular migration to international destinations. Even when jobs are available the wages are often not enough for youth to earn a living. For a growing number of young people, life steps like acquiring a house or marriage are put off.

Africa’s future is unclear but what is certain is that foreign fears that upsetting the status quo will lead to a migration ‘wave’ are misplaced. The old status quo, including securitised approaches to migration, are not tenable and have not been for some time.

Rising irregular migration over the past several years has been a potent indicator of this, albeit one that has been largely overlooked. Future migration is far more likely to be driven by efforts to maintain this status quo than by any decline in security force capacity to police Africa’s shores that political change could bring.

The international community should try to anticipate shifts in migration flows in the region and provide technical support so countries can pass adequate laws. At the same time, relevant government officials especially law enforcement, customs agents, magistrates and social workers need training on international best practices for protecting undocumented migrants.

Diversity of migratory routes

Algeria is a key destination and transit country for many African migrants, mostly from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso or Chad. The country plays a major role in regulating migration flow between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, but is faced with increasing numbers of undocumented migrants. This raises legitimate concerns for the country.

During the 2011 Libyan Civil war, Algeria was officially the neighbouring country that received fewest migrants fleeing Libya: 12,296 third-country and 1,666 Algerian nationals reached Algerian borders from February to November 2011 according to data from IOM. Official figures are perhaps inaccurate here though. International agencies were often kept away from Algerian transit border areas. And the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that in March 2011, it was contacted directly by the Senegalese embassy worried about 300 Senegalese nationals who were refused entrance to Algeria by the Algerian authorities at the border with Libya, UNHCR report stated.

Tightening of migration policy

Meanwhile, the Algerian law criminalises illegal entry into, residency in and exit from the country, but allows those who might be subject to a court’s expulsion decision, to appeal. This process is welcomed. But the interior ministry can also unilaterally decide to evict foreigners who might ‘violate the security of the State, public order, morality and organized crime legislation’. The absence of an asylum law shows the lack of political vision on the issue.

And while Algeria ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in 2004, several aspects need to be strengthened in domestic law. Currently, Algerian law addresses undocumented migration as a security concern, which appears in repatriation operations.

Beyond regular migrants, Algeria hosts large numbers of sub-Saharan irregular foreign workers employed in a variety of sectors, for instance in agriculture, construction and tourism, in the northern part of the country as well as in garment industries and domestic service in the south as at 2019. According to official data (Labour and Security Ministry), from 1992 to 2003 around 28,800 irregulars were apprehended by Algerian authorities; a figure which reached respectively 4,870, 5,680 and 3,234 in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (first semester). Much higher number of 6,000 irregular migrants deported each month (i.e. 72,000 per year) at the two major border points (in Guezzam on the Niger border and Tin Zouatin on the Malian border), figures which coincide with the views of the consulates of these countries in Tamanrasset.

Since the end of 2017, thousands of undocumented migrants from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali and Guinea have been repatriated or forcibly deported from Algeria to Niger and Mali. In recent years, the North African country has carried out waves of deportations to Niger, including an estimated 25,000 in 2018, 25,000 in 2019,and another 16,000 in 2020 according to reports from the Human Rights Watch. Niger; a hub for those looking to leave in search of new opportunities, for decades. In the past, Niger has repeatedly protested the inhumane treatment suffered by its nationals in Algeria.

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