Illegal immigration out of Algeria up in 2007
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers – 13/01/08
The phenomenon of illegal immigration from Algeria to Europe appears to be on the rise. A recent Algerian navy report indicates that the number of people who died during the crossing and whose bodies have been recovered has risen steadily over the last two years, up from 29 in 2005 to 73 in 2006 and 83 in 2007.
The number of persons reported missing appears to run into the hundreds, judging by the number of applications made by families to the family tracking service of the Algerian Red Crescent (ARC). This body helps families trace their children by working in partnership with Red Cross organisations in Europe, particularly those of Spain and Italy.
The ARC says more than 50 applications are processed each month and forwarded, where appropriate, to the International Red Cross network for further investigation. This compares with a figure of between five and seven applications per month in 2001.
Navy Communications Chief Lieutenant Colonel Slimane Defairi told Magharebia that nearly two-thirds of the bodies recovered cannot be identified, due to their "advanced stage of decomposition". Defairi said most of the bodies that were identified belonged to Algerian nationals.
He went on to say that 1,530 would-be immigrants – 1,485 of them Algerian – were arrested in Algeria in 2007. These included 1,377 arrests made during ship inspections carried out at sea and 153 on ships arriving in port. These numbers mark a considerable increase over 335 illegal immigrants arrested in 2005 and 1,016 in 2006.
In light of the increase, Algerian authorities have adopted a raft of new measures, including the creation of a National Maritime Radio-navigation Agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Telecommunications, charged with constant monitoring, handling distress signals, and maritime safety. The ANRM works in partnership with the National Coastguard Service, which primarily carries out search and rescue operations. The programme divides the Algerian coastline into three sea regions – CNOSS Centre (Algiers), CROSS East (Jijel) and CROSS West (Oran), each of which is further subdivided into smaller regions.
Parliamentary Relations Minister Mahmoud Khoudri announced recently that, in the first half of 2007, a total of 35 sea rescues were mounted. During the operations, 61 boats and 12 makeshift craft were intercepted and 105 people were brought before the courts. He noted that the immigrants were predominantly young students, merchants, civil servants and unemployed people aged 18-40. According to Khoudri, "The concerns of young people and the phenomenon of illegal immigration are being closely examined by political leaders in Algeria."
Security services have also uncovered an organised crime network dealing in human trafficking in Algeria, as well as the rest of the Maghreb and the Sahel. The investigations are based on information gleaned from immigrants arrested along the country’s eastern coast.
One officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told Magharebia, "These immigrants said that to get across the Mediterranean, they each had to pay between 10,000 and 15,000 dinars."
Minister Khoudri said joint efforts are being made between Algeria and neighbouring countries, including the use of "recent equipment and investigation techniques... which will enable us to smash international human trafficking rings".
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