Sub-Saharan Migrants in Algeria
Ghania Khelifi - 18/09/2012
The security situation in the Sahel will not improve the image of Sub-Saharan migrants living in Algeria. Already victims of everyday racism and serious violations of their human rights, they will now be suspected of collusion with armed Islamists. Until now, they were mostly suspected of all kinds of trafficking and prostitution. In an article published on the 3rd of May 2012, once again without verifying sources, the regional newspaper Echo d'Oran quotes some inhabitants according to whom “a prostitution network made up of African nationals housed in homes of fortune. Some neighbours even accuse these illegal immigrants of producing pornographic films. Many illegal immigrants will do anything to amass as much money through quackery, prostitution and also forged bank notes.”
This demonization of African migrants has also led to the frightening behaviour the security services have towards women often mothers of young children. “Cleansing” operations took place in Tamanrasset in the south, in Dely Ibrahim on the heights of the capital city and in Oran, in the west. The local moralists accuse the migrants of being promiscuity and delinquency including those of Christian faith who have no chance of being accepted in Algeria.
As we are always the “immigrant” for someone, the Algerians that resent the discrimination suffered by their relatives in France reproduce the same behaviour while stating that they are not racist. They are surprised that the Cameroonian recruited to work on their villa’s construction site could be an academic and that the young Ghanaian the meet in the street is not necessarily a prostitute. After an altercation between members of the two communities, this district of the city of Oran started to chase Africans. However, the Algerian people’s rights are violated by their own government and their country is not exactly the land of freedom and justice. They themselves are so often confronted with despotism that they forget that the rights of foreigners contribute to their own dignity. Like their children who risk their lives to reach European shores, the young African migrants cross the borders of Mali and Niger crammed into truckloads of contraband goods often with the same project, that of heading to Europe via Algeria.
According to the official data given to the UN Commission, 20,000 people were expulsed from Algeria between 2000 and 2007. The police forces state that 28 000 illegal migrants were arrested between 1992 and 2003. In 2009, the number has almost doubled to reach 45,000. Ain Guezzam, at the frontier of Nigeria and Bordj Tinzaouatine Baji Mukhtar at the frontier of Mali are lawless places, because potential migrants are pushed back and literally “thrown” into the desert without further ado. If people do not realize what is happening to their African neighbours in their country, civil organizations, intellectuals and journalists have no excuse to ignore what is going on. One of the rare reactions comes from the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights[i] that condemns every abuse against migrants. In December 2011, a statement of the association denounced the collective expulsion of Nigerians, Cameroonians and Malians “due to speedy trials and non-compliance of recourse in the law 08/11 of the 25th June 2008 related to conditions of entry, stay and movement of foreigners in Algeria that has a suspensive effect.” This very repressive law allowed the creation of “waiting centres” open for migrants waiting to be expulsed back to their countries.
The Algerian League continuously exposes the practices of the authorities related to migrants. In a lengthy report published in December 2011, the SNAPAP National Office (independent trade union) identifies the facts reported by activists: separated families, small children taken away from their mothers and inhuman conditions.
Algerian government had already revealed his illegal immigration policy by the 2008 law that is very similar to the policies implemented by right-wing governments in certain European countries. Few Algerians know that there are detention centres in their country and that the living conditions in such centres are appalling. This situation will most probably persist as in Algeria, access to rights and freedom of expression are so mistreated that people find themselves imprisoned in their own word and this prevents them from linking local struggles to the universal struggle for human rights.
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech