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Algeria

A New Migrant Gateway On Algeria’s Western Border

Algerian authorities have been accused of harsh treatment of asylum seekers.

A New Migrant Gateway On Algeria’s Western Border
Giacomo Tognini

MAGHNIA — The banks of the Wadi Jorgi river valley in western Algeria are littered with the remains of shacks built from branches, plastic, and sheet metal. The sprawling informal camp is home to hundreds of migrants from across Africa who are part of a growing wave of people crossing into Algeria from the nearby Moroccan border.

This latest twist in the African migrant itinerary was described in a recent reportage by the Algiers-based daily El Watan . Once the migrants arrive in the border town of Maghnia, some hope to take the "Algerian" route across the Mediterranean into Europe or instead detour through Algeria's eastern neighbor, Libya. Many instead choose to settle in Algeria but remain undocumented workers in the eyes of Algerian authorities.

Known locally as the "Maghnia Ghetto," what was once a bustling community was burned to the ground in early March, but the perpetrators have yet to be identified. All that survived was a small village of a dozen huts nestled at the foot of a hill near the dried-up river. "Our land was burned at night, but we managed to move uphill and build these tents for ourselves," Abdullah, a resident from Cameroon, told El Watan.

Photo: Ppm90sd/Wikimedia Commons

The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and Human Rights Watch have both criticized the conduct of Algerian security forces, accusing them of rounding up migrants and housing them in detention camps or deporting them to dangerous regions like northern Mali. According to LADDH, the Algerian police has expelled at least 2,000 migrants since the beginning of the year, denying them the right to seek asylum in Algeria.

We would love to live here.

While some migrants have abandoned their plans of trying to reach Europe, via Spain or Italy, others are digging in. "We will stop migrating when the West stops deciding for us," says Moussa, another resident in the camp. "We live surrounded by rubbish and reptiles, with no access to water, healthcare, or electricity. We would love to be able to live in this town, but we are isolated and rejected here."

LADDH estimates there are around 60,000 irregular immigrants in Algeria, most of them working in factories in Algiers and Oran. The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has justified the expulsions as lawful repatriations, part of a wider set of coordinated measures with other countries in western Africa including Niger and Mali.

For those who still call the Wadi Jorgi camp home, there is little hope of their ordeal ending anytime soon. "I just hope that the Algerian authorities accept us and regularize our status," says Fadack Mboualé Franck Basile to El Watan. "I was sent here from Paris after living there for 15 years. I will never lose hope, I will either go back to France or I will make a life here for me and my family."

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