According to a newly released report from the Global Detention Project, Algeria is failing to adhere to immigration detention laws and practices recommended by the United Nations Committee on Migrants. As reported by Human Rights Watch, the country is, instead, racially profiling migrants; arresting and detaining them in inadequate facilities; and busing them to Niger or Tamanrasset in Southern Algeria for deportation, without considering their asylum claims. Some migrants have also reported being beaten by security forces during transfer, and have said they were not provided sufficient food or allowed to retrieve important documents or savings before being deported.
These practices are in contravention of various international conventions Algeria is a party to, which protect refugees, migrants, asylum seekers, and their families. In 2004, for example, Algeria ratified the International Convention for the Protection of Migrants, which bars group expulsion of migrants, and obliges governments to review immigration cases on an individual basis. Algeria is home to an estimated 100,000 migrants, mostly from Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
Nine months ago, former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s called on Algeria to grant African migrants residency rights and work permits. It was a step in the right direction, which is being undermined by the on-going mass deportations. If Algeria continues this punitive approach to its migrant population, it will also prove detrimental to its economy, as well as regional security.
Ranking last in the Global Economic Freedom Index in the Middle East and North Africa region (Libya, Syria, and Yemen are unranked), Algeria would benefit from migrant workers who could help bolster sectors of the economy that suffer from decline or stagnation. Hoping to diversify its economy away from oil, Algeria should seek out, rather than reject, migrant workers who could fill the shortage of workers in areas such as construction and agriculture.
Last year, Ahmed Ouyahia, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s cabinet chief stated that migrants are a source of “criminal activity and drugs,” while Foreign Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel claimed migrants “represent a threat to national security.” Data suggesting migrants are more prone to crime is scarce. Studies also show that increased securitization has little to no effect on reducing migrant flows. Heightened border control can instead drive migrants and refugee into dangerous situations, including human trafficking. As a link between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, Algeria would strengthen its relations with the international community if it were to help reduce human trafficking networks by providing and encouraging paths to residency.
Algeria remains an important hub for those wanting to escape economic, political, and social crises. As a country on the frontlines, Algeria must develop migration policies and adhere to human rights standards that promote social and economic inclusion, and a path to legal status with fair work opportunities for migrants coming to the country.