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U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Algeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2005
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Algeria , 20 June 2005, 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.

Refoulement/Asylum  There were no reports of refoulement. The 1989 Constitution provided that in no case may a "political refugee" with the legal right of asylum be "delivered or extradited." A 1963 decree established the Bureau for the Protection of Refugees and Exiles (BAPRA) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to decide cases, or to recognize refugees the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) granted status under its mandate, and an appellate board including a UNHCR representative. It required applicants to submit appeals one month after denial, or one week in cases of illegal entry, orders of expulsion, or security risk. The Government decided only four cases. UNHCR granted another 18 refugees protection. The Government recognized all Palestinians as refugees.

Detention  There were no reports of the Government detaining asylum seekers or refugees. The 1963 decree empowered BAPRA to issue documentation to refugees.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  Algerian law severely restricted the rights of foreigners to work with negligible exception for refugees. The 1981 Employment of Foreign Workers Law and the 1983 Order of the Ministry of Labor allowed work permits valid for single employers for jobs for which no national, even one abroad, was qualified. Employers had to file justifications consistent with the opinions of workers' representatives. Permits were valid for no more than two years and renewal required repetition of the same showings. Foreign workers could change employers only in exceptional circumstances after consultation with their previous employers. Violators were subject to fines and/or imprisonment from ten days to a month. No one could employ unskilled foreigners except those having "political refugee" status. The 1990 labor law reiterated the labor protection requirement, without exception for refugees. A January 2005 decree established regional labor inspection offices to enforce laws regulating the employment of foreigners and to take action "against all forms of illegal work." According to UNHCR, Palestinian refugees had access to the labor market under a special dispensation.

The Constitution provided that "Any foreigner being legally on the national territory enjoys the protection of his person and his properties by the law."

The desert surrounding Tindouf where guerillas confined refugees from Moroccan controlled Western Sahara supported virtually no livelihood activity although refugees could own goats and sheep.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The Government allowed the rebel group, Polisario, to confine nearly a hundred thousand refugees from the disputed Western Sahara to four camps in desolate areas outside Tindouf military zone near the Moroccan border "for political and military, rather than humanitarian, reasons," according to one observer. According to Amnesty International, "This group of refugees does not enjoy the right to freedom of movement in Algeria. ... Those refugees who manage to leave the refugee camps without being authorized to do so are often arrested by the Algerian military and returned to the Polisario authorities, with whom they cooperate closely on matters of security." Polisario checkpoints surrounded the camps, the Algerian military guarded entry into Tindouf, and police operated checkpoints throughout the country.

The Polisario did allow some refugees to leave for education in Algeria and elsewhere and to tend livestock in the areas it controls of the Western Sahara and in Mauritania. An unknown number reportedly held Mauritanian passports and the Algerian government also issued passports to those the Polisario permitted to travel abroad.

Between March and August, UNHCR sponsored a series of Confidence Building Measures including five-day family visits between some 1,500 refugees and their immediate relatives in Western Sahara, and telephone connections in the camps. UNHCR issued each family a Travel Manifesto as a travel document.

Retraction: In the 2004 Survey, USCRI mistakenly reported that the refugees in the camps near Tindouf enjoyed freedom of movement. We also used the working population figure of aid agencies which, in light of Polisario's refusal to allow a census and independent estimates, was likely inflated.

Public Relief and Education  The refugees in the camps near Tindouf were almost totally dependent on international relief from UNHCR, World Food Programme (WFP), and the Algerian Red Cross. According to a 2002 Institute for Child Health Study, nearly 11 percent of children under five suffered from wasting and/or oedema and more than 30 percent from stunted growth. According to WFP, iron-deficiency anemia rates were about 35 percent among preschool children and nearly 48 percent among women of child-bearing age. School attendance was reportedly 100 percent.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  The 1992-98 civil war between the Islamic Armed Group (GIA) and the Government killed between 150,000 and 200,000 people, caused some 8,000 disappearances, and displaced about 1 million, mostly from rural areas to the outskirts of secondary urban centers. Although by 2004 the violence had largely subsided, less than half had returned. There were no reliable counts of the total number of IDPs as many lived with family or friends in shanty towns rather than camps, the Government did not allow independent monitoring, and there had also been general, economically motivated rural-to-urban migration of some five million at the same time. Only the provinces of Blida and Médéa registered IDPs and returns in 2002 and, in the latter, these were 300,000 and 30,000, respectively. Many IDPs have become urban migrants for whom the violence in the regions of their origin has subsided but the economic desolation remained.

According to government and press accounts, ongoing political strife killed about 430 people in 2004, including about 220 terrorists, 120 security personnel, and 90 civilians, dramatically down from about 1,200 in 2003 and 2,000 in 2001. In May, security services discovered an armed group operating in the forested mountains near d'El Magtoua, prompting IDPs from the region to resist pressure to return. In October, suspected members of GIA killed 16 near Hamdania (80 km south of Algiers), causing most inhabitants of the rural area to flee. Ten families fled rebel threats in Jijel and Skikda provinces in September.

According to data gathered by Comité Justice pour l'Algérie and the Global IDP Project, the six provinces where the most violence against civilians persisted from 2002 to 2004 (i.e., 25 killings or more) were the sources of some 435,000 IDPs, most of whom fled between 1992-98. USCRI estimated that a total of anywhere between 400,000 and 600,000 may remain displaced due to insecurity rather than economic reasons. This was higher than previous USCRI estimates but reflects new analysis rather than any net increase in displacement.

Algeria generally denied humanitarian personnel access to IDPs and had at times prohibited all major human rights monitoring organizations from visiting the country, although it allowed ICRC to make prison visits. Authorities blocked a 30 million Euro ($39 million) EU project for IDP return because of NGO involvement and control mechanisms from 2003 until December 2004. Authorities blocked a delegation of the International League of Human Rights at the airport in February 2005.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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