Sub-Saharan immigration and Human Rights in Algeria | Yassin Temlali
Sub-Saharan immigration and Human Rights in Algeria Print
Yassin Temlali   
Sub-Saharan immigration and Human Rights in Algeria | Yassin Temlali The activity of Human Rights NGOs thwarted by the lack of means
Even though it is constantly increasing, “illegal” Sub-Saharan immigration does not yet seem to be the main concern of the two Algerian Human Rights leagues, the LADH and the LADDH (1). Neither of these two NGOs has, at the moment, launched a campaign to raise consciousness about the situation of irregular Sub-Saharan immigrants, the vast majority of which live in extremely precarious conditions.

For the President of the LADH, Me Boudjemâa Ghechir, the difficulty in helping these migrants comes essentially from the ‘illegal nature’ of their presence in Algeria: “Having entered the country illegally, they are by definition not visible.” However, on the other hand, we can also say that the ‘invisibility’ of the LADH’s actions in this area explains that is rarely called upon by ailing illegal immigrants: “Few make contact with us. They maintain that they have fled repression and war. We try to help those who we believe are real refugees to make their asylum applications to the HCR.”

The President of the LADDH, Me Hocine Zehouane, admits that the limited resources that his organisation has do not allow him, at this time, to actively support these immigrants: “If we were to launch such an action, we should use the necessary means to do so: open offices in Tamanrasset, Djanet, Tlemcen, Ghardaia, Algiers and in all places where migrants are gathered; train teams of investigators, observers, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t do this at the moment. We are right in the middle of restructuring our organisation and all our resources are dedicated to urgent questions such as the search for the truth on the forced disappearances and denunciation of torture.”

Me Zehouane and Me Ghechir both say that “the appearance of irregular immigration is completely new. We know little about it due to the absence of studies and statistics,” says the President of the LADH. “Algeria’s justice and administration are ill-equipped to treat it in a decent manner, respecting the migrants’ dignity,” regrets the President of the LADDH: “In Algerian legislation, the illegal immigrant does not exist. Illegal immigrants are not protected against racism and xenophobia. They do not benefit from any kind of protection as workers either. They are exploited but have not rights.”
Sub-Saharan immigration and Human Rights in Algeria | Yassin Temlali In 2004, Algeria ratified the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families” which stipulates that “employers shall not be relieved of any legal or contractual obligations”, towards migrants workers, despite the irregularity of their situation. However, this Convention cannot be easily followed: to be registered at Social Security and benefit from its advantages, you need a work permit, which can only be delivered if you have entered the country legally!

What can be the work of Human Rights leagues considering these conditions of “lack of means” and “absence of statistical data” on illegal immigration? A job of warning and raising consciousness, say Me Ghechir and Me Zehouane. “We are working so that expulsions are adjudicated judicially and not another way. Illegal migrants arrested by security services must be allowed due process. Their expulsion must be carried out in a way that preserves their human dignity”, explains Me Ghechir, for whom the LADH, “respectful of the law”, cannot oppose expulsions when they are ordered by the courts: “If the law says that an immigrant must be evicted, we cannot do anything about it.”
The “human treatment” of the illegal immigration question also implies, for the President of the LADH, “closing the holding camps for illegal immigrants and a case-by-case study of their situation, in order to distinguish between those who have fled repression and war – and must be welcomed as refugees – and those in transit on Algerian soil, heading for Europe.” While those who came to live and work in Algeria must be regularised, says the LADH.

Me Zehouane recalls that the solution to the question of Sub-Saharan immigration is essentially subject to the responsibility of the European Union, Algeria being for most irregular immigrants only a transit country. “What does the EU do for them? It proposes that the Maghreb be a barrier against them. If Europe is in favour of free circulation of goods, it must open its borders to these goods which the South exports - cheap workforce!”

The problem must be fixed at the source, concludes the President of the LADDH, by the development of this “stricken continent” which Africa is: “The history of this continent is a long succession of tragedies. Medieval empires, just like big colonial empires, were only able to be built thanks to the exploitation of African workforce. It is time that the world deals out justice to Africa.”

Yassin Temlali