Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Algeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Algeria , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 15 December 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 2001. Some 10,000 Algerians applied for asylum in Europe during the year, joining tens of thousands of Algerians who sought refuge abroad 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 2001, including some 80,000 from Western Sahara, and nearly 5,000 Palestinians.

Pre-2000 Violence

Since 1992, a brutal insurgency has killed an estimated 100,000 or more Algerians, many of them civilians. Islamic extremists launched the insurgency after the Algerian military cancelled democratic elections to prevent an electoral victory by an Islamic political coalition.

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. The government's ruthless counterinsurgency tactics have added to the massive death toll.

Violence in 2001

Bloodshed continued during 2001, although the number of deaths and the scope of new population displacement remained unknown because the government blocked most journalists and international human rights experts from visiting the conflict area.

Up to 800 persons were killed during the first four months of 2001, according to one news report. As many as 1,500 people were killed during the entire year, Human Rights Watch estimated. As in previous years, attacks reportedly occurred at several locations within 40 miles (60 km) of the capital, Algiers. Violence also struck the country's northwest region, about 200 miles (nearly 300 km) from Algiers.

Political discontent unrelated to the insurgency mounted during the year, leading to anti-government demonstrations and violence. An earthquake and widespread floods killed some 700 people, adding to the misery.

Thousands of families uprooted by the decade of violence have fled to urban areas, where they live with friends and relatives, in public buildings, in makeshift shelters, and in shanty neighborhoods.

Refugees from Western Sahara

Ethnic Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara remained at four large camps in a harsh, remote corner of western Algeria during 2001. Most had fled civil war in Western Sahara in the mid-1970s.

Negotiations to resolve the dispute in Western Sahara remained stalemated during 2001, forcing the refugees to remain in the Tindouf area of Algeria. Virtually no Sahrawi refugees have repatriated during the past two decades. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducted a seminar in May to explain the concept of individual voluntary repatriation to refugees and their leaders.

Conditions in the refugee camps deteriorated in the first half of 2001 because of inadequate food aid and a $600,000 cut in international funding to humanitarian assistance programs for the Sahrawi refugee population. Shortages of clothes, blankets, and plastic sheeting were pervasive.

Some refugees departed the camps and migrated to neighboring Mauritania "as a result of the ... harsh economic conditions prevailing in the camps," UNHCR reported.

A report by the UN secretary general in June noted that the "overall situation of the refugees was very precarious and ... the reduction of basic assistance ... has had a deteriorating effect on the vulnerable refugees."

Some Sahrawi refugees reportedly feared that the international community imposed aid cuts to compel the refugees' premature return to Western Sahara. UNHCR launched a publicity campaign to reassure the refugee population, and persuaded international donors to provide improved food and funding in the second half of the year.

Inadequate water supplies and poor water quality in the refugee camps continued to pose problems in the desert environment. UNHCR improved the water systems in two camps during the year.

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

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