by Kaci Racelma
American Reporter Correspondent
February 22, 2005
AFRICA, TOO, FACES IMMIGRATION PROBLEMS
ALGIERS, Algeria -- For a long time, they have been people who were forced to flee their homes due to starvation, dire poverty and war, searching out other, more clement areas as a salve for their misfortune.
This migratory phenomenon with neither geographical nor temporal nor judicial borders tends to be the central issue of the new century. Now, for many Third World nations, clandestine immigration is an awkward problem that these developing countries have to face up to.
France, Spain, Italy, England and Germany are the most sought-after destinations, countries imagined to be the El Dorado to thousands of people of the Third World in general and Africa in particular.
In Africa, a continent facing an insuperable difficulties, a great number of illegal candidates for immigration are running away from bad conditions of life and unemployment.
This explains a great part of why thousands of them attempt every year to reach the El Dorado nations by sea, thanks to unscrupulous groups operating in North African territories such as Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, who transport the immigrants in vessels that are usually intercepted.
Most of them are from sub-Saharan Africa and Maghreb, in addition to other adventurers enticed by a higher standard of life elswhere.
The migratory pressure has been so intense this year that European leaders have demanded that North African governments monitor their side of the Mediterranean coastline.
The problem was the major focus of the debate between the Algerian government and French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin during his visit to Algeria on Oct. 11 last year. Several propositions to slow or stop the pressure were the center of his discussions with Algerian officials.
The same issue was engaged by de Villepin and his Moroccan counterpart, who agreed to exchange information between France and the countries of the Maghreb, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, sharing their knowledge of the domain of clandestine immigration and its shdowy brother, terrorism.
Even if the noose is tightening on the actors in this migratory movement, the number of emigrants from African countries to Europe is set to rise dramatically over the next few years as a result of poverty and grinding conditions. For future immigrants, the passage accross the Maghreb promises to become more and more difficult.
That is why, indeed, North African leaders are raising the alarm about it.
In Algeria, enforcement has beome particularly effective, as local authorities consider it a very important and dangerous issue that requires decisive and effective measures.
To deal with the growing problem, Algerian police forces often proceed to use their lawful authority to mount sweeps that would catch all those who are in an irregular immigration situation.
Morever, the national policve argued last September for what they called "necessary measures," and offered several recent cases with different outcomes as examples of the problem. That information was obtained by The American Reporter.
Clandestine immigrants crossing Algerian territory on their way to Europe numbered over 500 last September, the gendarmerie's national commander said. They are generally arrested on a charge of illegal immigration, "irregulary sojourn" and the lack of work permits.
Around half of those caught were from Mali (164) and Niger (129). Some 36 others were from Syria, and 29 from the Congo.
Senegal (18) and Cameroon (18) are in a fourth-place tie, followed by Morocco (13), Benin (10), Tunisia (9) and Ghana.
There are also immigrants from Liberia, Ivory coast, Zambia, Sudan, Togo, Gambia and Nigeria.
The provinces facing the greatest number of immigrants are Tamanrasset and Illizi in the south of Algeria (251 arrests) followed by Ghardaia, with 90, and Ouargla (53).
Among the northern provinces, Oran had 25 arrests, followed by Tlemcen (11), Ain Defla (11), Ain Temouchent(9), Saida (8), Sidi Belabes(3), Mascara (3) and Mostaganem (1).
The police commandmer said among those caught, only 18 are women.
After judging the facts given in each case, the final decision was to detain 76 persons, release 34 others and expel 390.
Last Oct. 31, some 49 foreign nationals were interrogated by the national police service, which later issued a communique indicating that the majority of those caught were Africans.
All these immigrants had taken the favored route into Spain from Algeria to Morocco, the police said.
In this situation, Algeria government has officially demanded that European union countries offer material help to put an end to this seemngly endless phenomenon.
In the same order of ideas ,161 illegal immigrants were arrested in Morocco during 27 and 29 of october said the Moroccan interior ministry.
Those apprehended were caught in different regions of the Kingdom, and among them 134 were from sub-Saharan countries, 19 from Algeria, five from Morocco and three from Asia.
In connection with the statistics, the Moroccan Interior Ministry issued a strongly-worded communique vowing that the Kingdom will fight illegal immigration "without ceasing."
Kaci Racelma has been a reporter for Algeria's La Nouvelle Republique since 1998. He reads, speaks and writes Arabic, French and English.