20 December 2012

Algeria: Nation Halts Refugee Repatriation

Algiers — Algeria vowed last week not to deport the 25,000 African refugees currently on its soil.

"It is impossible to send them back at this point, for humanitarian reasons and due to the conflicts or wars which are on-going in their countries of origin," Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said on December 13th during a plenary session before Parliament.

The minister said that Algeria, which deported 41,000 illegal immigrants between 2009 and 2011, decided to take a different approach to the mass influx of refugees (often from Libya, Mali and Niger) coming to the country in 2012.

"Political and social instability and armed conflicts have driven thousands of African migrants to enter Algeria illegally. In the past, Algeria was a transit country for Africans who wanted to reach Europe. That is not the case now. These Africans are fleeing death," Ould Kablia said.

"The Algerian authorities have made every effort to look after these migrants until their home countries become stable and safe again, in accordance with the international commitments made by Algeria with regard to human rights," he added.

The Algerian government adopted a raft of "practical" steps to group these refugees together by erecting tents in border regions of the country and to make them comfortable. The minister also pointed out that officials from the defence and interior ministries met in order to take the steps necessary to make these regions "safe".

Grants and additional logistical assistance were given to provinces of southern Algeria such as Adrar, Illizi and Tamanrasset so that they can provide the best possible living conditions (accommodation, food and healthcare) to the refugees.

Ould Kablia also announced that a sector-wide national committee was created under the aegis of the interior ministry. Made up of representatives of authorities and departments which are dealing with the issue, its main task is to co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate the efforts made in this area.

In Algiers, politicians have taken different views of the Algerian government's efforts.

"The government must deal with the issue of refugees in a stricter manner. Crime and the trafficking of drugs and arms are phenomena and risks which we fear as the number of illegal immigrants on Algerian soil continues to rise," El Karama party MP Daoui Mohamed said during a speech in the lower chamber of Parliament on December 13th.

"The presence of refugees on Algerian soil should not cause problems for anyone. They have left behind their homes and their families to save their own lives and those of their loved ones. I'm sure they will go back to their home countries when peace returns," public sector worker Amina Mazoune said.

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