Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Algeria: Immigration to Europe

Algeria's population is 35 million. The President is Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was first elected in 1999 and reelected this past April. Its population is very young - the average age is 26. The country's economy is dependent on fossil fuels: it ranks 14th in oil reserves and 8th in natural gas reserves. 25% of the population is employed in agriculture, and they raise a significant amount of wheat, barley and oats.
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In an article in this morning's Times (here), Yasmine Ryan reports on efforts by European countries and the Algerian government to stem the tide of emigration across the Mediterranean. Notwithstanding those efforts, "Algerians are attempting clandestine migration to Europe on a scale unseen in recent years" (Algerian and other North African governments claim that many of the immigrants are crossovers from sub-Saharan Africa, but Ryan reports that the number of actual Algerians has also increased).

In March of this year, Algeria criminalized the act of attempting to emigrate without permission.
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When I was in southern Spain with Olav in 2001, several people described to us the phenomenon of northern Africans attempting to cross the Mediterranean (in whatever small boats or rafts were available). There was a cemetery in one of the towns we visited devoted to the unnamed immigrants whose bodies had washed up on shore. One Algerian who reached Sardinia, on his third attempt, only to be deported, described his motivation thus: "I’m facing growing old without ever having had a life."

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