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First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

Algeria

Socioeconomic and geopolitical aspects (geographic, historical, demographic, political, economic notes)
Official name: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria; capital: Algiers.

Geography and Demography: The country is located in Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria is the largest country in Africa, with a total area of 2.381.741 sq. km and land boundaries comprising 6.734 km (Libya 989 km, Mali 1,359 km, Mauritania 460 km, Morocco 1,900 km, Niger 951 km, Tunisia 1,034 km, and Western Sahara 41 km). The climate is arid or semiarid and the terrain is mostly high plateau and desert. The main natural resources of the country are petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead and zinc. Only 17.4% of the land is suitable for agriculture (arable land 18.02%; permanent crops 2.34%; permanent pasture 79.63%). Population (July 2017 est.): 40.969.443. Ethnic groups. Arab-Berber 99% (although almost all Algerians are Berber in origin (not Arab), only a minority identify themselves as Berber, about 15% of the total population), Europeans less than 1%. The vast majority of the populace is found in the extreme northern part of the country along the Mediterranean Coast. Main languages: Arabic (official), French (lingua franca), Berber or Tamazight (official). Islam is the main religion (predominantly Sunni, 99%), other includes Christian and Jewish (<1%) (CIA, 2017).

Historical background and politics: “Algeria gained Independence from France in 1962 after one of Africa’s bloodiest anti-colonial wars. After Independence, Algeria was a single-party socialist state, ruled by the Front de libération nationale. In the late 1980s a series of political and economic reforms began, creating the opportunity for the now banned Front islamique du salut to win control of the legislature in the December 1991 election. However, the army stepped in to annul the election, starting a decade of severe political and economic difficulties. By the end of the decade, the situation had begun to improve. The influence of the military over political affairs has declined as Mr Bouteflika, who became president in 1999, has increased the power of the presidency. Social unrest in 2011 led to a modest round of political liberalisation, including ending the state of emergency and approving a range of new political parties, including Islamist ones” (EIU 2012, 3).

Economy: The dominant sector of the economy, hydrocarbons, receives preferential treatment. “The hydrocarbons industry was nationalised in 1971. In the late 1980s, after two decades of central planning, some economic and political liberalisation began to be introduced. For most of the 1990s the country suffered from intense violence and economic difficulties. Reforms advanced in the first presidential term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but the momentum slowed in his second and third terms. Limited liberalisation and economic reform is expected. Algeria’s exports are principally made up of oil to the US and gas to the EU, whereas the most of its imports come from the EU” (EIU 2012, 3).

The Algerian minister of Industry and Mines, Youcef Yousfi, expressed the need of finding ways to diversify the economy.  He considered that the industry and mining sector could constitute an essential basis for the construction of a diversified economy that helps to get out of oil dependency (Algérie Press Service, 2017).

Current conflicts (and their causes)
The strategic challenges related to security refer to the degradation of regional context - in the Maghreb’s and Sahel’s conflicts - and the fight against terrorism. Algeria is a key country immersed in a troubled neighbourhood. It has played an important role in the political and security crises of Libya, Mali and Tunisia: “Along much of the eastern and southern parts of its 6,500km land border, Algeria has to contend with greatly weakened states and jihadi threats. The Arab uprisings and Malian crisis and their aftermath have turned Libya, Tunisia and Mali, as well as the wider Sahel region, into cross-border security risks for the first time” (International Crisis Group, 2015).

Other constraints regarding domestic politics include the diffusion of protests of local communities, reflecting widespread discontent with the socioeconomic situation, the political ruling elites, and marginalisation of rural areas (Raleigh, Dowd and Moody 2015, 2).

In addition to these two dimensions, we must also add the impact that the rivalries between Morocco and Algeria have on the issue of Western Sahara, which forces a difficult balance between the two states.

Factors that impel displacement or seek refuge outside the country
There are two main dynamics and sources of tension: Sahrawi refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. On the one hand, the Algeria Government “is the main backer of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic and its armed wing the Polisario Front”. Since the beginning of the Western Sahara issue in the seventies, Algeria’s Tindouf region has served as base for the Polisario Front. On the other hand, Algeria faces other social challenges due to the influx of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa: “there is a problem with racism towards migrant from sub-Saharan Africa, especially among the Tuareg” (Strachan 2014, 15).

The Polisario-administered Sahrawi refugee camps located around Tindouf in southwest Algeria are becoming major hubs for trafficking and “there is growing evidence to suggest dangerous connections between criminal organizations, AQIM, and the Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf. Such links are bound to deepen should the social and political conditions in the camps deteriorate further” (Boukhars 2012, 3). As a Human Rights Watch’s report says “the prospect of a lasting settlement and the return of refugees to their homeland remains elusive. The refugees, who number about 90,000 according to estimates by UN agencies, continue to rely primarily on international aid for basic necessities” (Human Rights Watch, 2014).

With respect to national anti-trafficking laws, the Government of Algeria issued in September 2016 a presidential decree formally institutionalizing the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee. Despite this achievement “the government did not systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, nor did it provide adequate protection services for all trafficking victims. It did not have a standardized mechanism to refer potential victims to government- or NGO-run protection services. Furthermore, due to a lack of identification efforts, authorities continued to punish potential trafficking victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as immigration violations and prostitution” (US Department of State 2017, 60).

Main countries of destination of the refugee flows and particularities of the routes
As Musette explains: “Since the Arab Spring, Algeria has become a haven for mixed migration flows from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. In these flows, there are also refugees in search of a third country. Many analysts see in these flows only a transit route to the countries of Europe. This observation is only partially correct, because there are many who find shelter in Algeria. In addition to the arrival of foreigners, we have also observed a movement of Algerian migrants, long established in those countries in crisis, to return to Algeria. These returnees, fleeing insecurity in their new home countries, may have lost all social ties within Algeria. Other Algerian migrants are known to be ‘trapped’ in some of these countries, regardless of their status there, regular or irregular”. According to the author, we are facing a new paradigm on migration after the Arab spring that gives priority to international security issues: “security resolutions adopted by the EU to protect its borders address the countries of the northern shores of the Mediterranean, reflecting a focus on migration movements to the north, but the impacts are also felt in the countries of the southern shore, such as Algeria” (Musette 2014, 47).

Consequences of violence or terror in people
The  Sahrawi  refugee  situation  is  one  of  the  most  protracted  refugee situations in  the  world.  Refugees from Western Sahara have been living in refugee camps near Tindouf in Western Algeria since 1975. The Western Sahara harbors one of the longest standing humanitarian disasters in recent history. The situation is of great concern in a region criss-crossed by organised crime and terrorist networks. Algeria and the Polisario both refuse to allow a census to count and register the refugee population, furthering suspicion that its agents are diverting, smuggling, and reselling substantial amounts of international humanitarian aid (US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 2009).

According to UNHCR,  over the past months, 21,666 refugees and migrants have crossed the sea to Italy. “In August, fewer than 4,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Italy (compared to almost 21,300 last August) with approximately 2,900 thought to have departed from Libya. As departures from Libya dropped, a larger proportion of arrivals by sea to Italy was from Tunisia, Turkey and Algeria.

Furthermore, according to Amnesty International, Algerian authorities have recently launched a discriminatory racial profiling against sub-Saharan migrants, expelling thousands of foreign nationals from a range of countries to neighbouring Niger and Mali. Amnesty International reminded that under international standards, no one can be forcibly expelled from a country without being given a fair opportunity to challenge their expulsion. In addition, no one can be returned to a country where they would face a real risk of serious human rights violations.

Reference suggestions to be consulted about refugees
Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mae.gov.dz/default_en.aspx
Human Rights Department, Algerian Foreign Ministry http://www.mae.gov.dz/Droits-de-lhomme_2.aspx
Immigration Department, Algerian Foreign Ministry http://www.mae.gov.dz/Immigration_2.aspx
Algerian Ministry of Justice http://www.mjustice.dz/

 

 

 

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