Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Algeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Algeria , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e15d4.html [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people remained internally displaced in Algeria at the end of 2000. Some 8,000 Algerians applied for asylum in Europe during the year, joining tens of thousands of Algerians who have sought asylum in Europe during the 1990s. Hundreds of thousands more Algerians have reportedly fled to Europe without filing asylum claims during the past decade.

Algeria hosted approximately 85,000 refugees at the end of 2000, including some 80,000 from Western Sahara, and nearly 5,000 Palestinians.

Pre-2000 Violence

A brutal insurgency since 1992 has killed an estimated 100,000 or more Algerians, many of them civilians.

The violence began when the nation's military canceled national elections that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a political coalition, was poised to win in 1992. Other indigenous Islamic rebel groups have joined in the violence.

Violence peaked in the mid-1990s as massacres intensified in the so-called "triangle of death" located south of the capital, Algiers. Insurgents typically slit the throats of their victims. Many victims were residents of remote villages. Government counterinsurgency tactics also caused many deaths.

The government offered partial amnesty to insurgents in 1999 in exchange for their surrender, but relatively few combatants took advantage of the amnesty offer. Some 98 percent of Algerian voters supported the amnesty program in a national referendum.

Violence in 2000

The government's amnesty program failed to end Algeria's bloodshed during 2000. As insurgent attacks and government counterinsurgency tactics continued, an estimated 100 to 200 killings occurred each month early in the year, and intensified to an estimated 300 or more killings each month by year's end. An estimated 2,500 civilians and combatants were killed during 2000.

Urban areas remained relatively safe; the majority of victims were civilians in rural areas. Many families uprooted from small villages and farms have fled to the capital, where some reportedly have settled into schools and mosques. Thousands lived in tents and cargo containers along the capital's busy streets. Others resided in shanty neighborhoods that have sprung up in recent years.

Violence during 2000 reportedly spilled into new locations in northeast Algeria, near the Tunisia border. Algerian authorities continued to restrict access of the international community to the conflict zone, making detailed documentation of the violence and assessments of humanitarian needs difficult. The extent of population displacement remained unclear.

The Algerian Red Crescent Society provided aid and counseling to victims of the violence.

Refugees from Western Sahara

Ethnic Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara remained at four large camps in a harsh, remote corner of western Algeria during 2000. Most fled to Algeria in the mid-1970s because of civil war in Western Sahara.

Prospects for the refugees' eventual return to Western Sahara grew bleaker during 2000 as peace negotiations remained deadlocked. Disagreements between the refugees' political leaders and Moroccan authorities who currently control Western Sahara prevented a planned visitation program that would have enabled refugee families to make short visits to their homeland.

Repatriation planners within the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) could do little but complete their registration of refugees who wish to repatriate when and if conditions eventually permit them to do so.

Most of the estimated 80,000 refugees continued to live in four designated camps located in a barren, flat desert near the Algerian town of Tindouf, some 1,000 miles (about 1,500 km) from the Algerian capital. Some sources estimated that up to 160,000 refugees lived in the camps.

Camp residents have endured irregular food supplies and poor drinking water for years. Food shortages occurred during 2000 because of funding shortfalls experienced by UNHCR and the World Food Program. Hundreds of tents housing refugee families needed repair.

UNHCR reported that 15,000 children needed new shoes and clothes. The agency distributed 7,000 blankets to protect refugees against the cold desert nights. A well-organized school system in the camps has educated about 90 percent of the refugee children. About 35,000 children attended 25 schools during 2000.

The geographic and economic isolation of the camps has impeded the refugee population's self-sufficiency. UNHCR offered vocational training and encouraged more refugees to engage in vegetable gardening to supplement their diets. Some families owned small herds of sheep, goats, and camels.

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