Algeria expecting influx of migrants as Europe 'closes door' to Mediterranean sea routes

Algeria expecting influx of migrants as Europe 'closes door' to Mediterranean sea routes
More migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa are expected to arrive in Algeria following the European Union's decision to close its doors, authorities warned.
2 min read
27 April, 2018
African migrants and refugees set up camp under an Algiers motorway [Getty]

Algeria said it expects to receive more migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa following the European Union's decision to "close its doors", effectively making it more difficult for people to reach Europe by boat, according to remarks made by the country's interior minister on Thursday.

The EU and Turkey struck a deal in 2016 that sought to close off the sea route to Turkey's neighbouring Greek islands that was used by almost a million people in 2015. In Libya, numbers of sea crossing have also fallen due to EU support of the Libyan coastguard.

Italy is also assisting Tunisia to prevent departures of migrant boats from its Mediterranean coastline.

"We are now at tens of thousands [of illegal migrants], but in the near future we can talk about hundreds of thousands after Europe closed its doors," Interior Minister Hassen Kacimi told reporters.

"The solution is not to close the borders from one side and let people die on the other side," he said. "Algeria is very concerned by the growing numbers of illegal migrants."

He said that Algeria, which shares a 2,500-kilometre border with Mali and Niger, had spent $20 million since 2015 to deal with the influx of migrants and refugees fleeing war, insecurity and poverty in Africa's Sahel region.

Read more: EU migration deal emboldens war criminals in Sudan

"Nobody has helped us, we are handling the situation with our own means," Kacimi said.

He also refuted accusations from rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claiming migrants were deported inhumanely.

"We are not Nazis, and migrants never die in Algeria," Kacimi said.

In October last year, Amnesty accused Algeria of "ethnically profiling" people from sub-Saharan Africa, saying it had "illegally expelled" more than 2,000 people to Niger and Mali.

Virulent racist and anti-immigrant sentiment has been building in Algeria in recent years, notably as pictures of African refugees and migrants living in squalid camps were circulated by the Algerian media.

Horrifying reactions such as, "they must be exterminated like rats", "go home", "it's an interior occupation", "they are violating and spreading AIDS in our cities" were found on social media, along with the hashtag #NoToAfricansInAlgeria.

Meanwhile, Algeria's Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia was seen to echo a similar rhetoric, accusing "illegal aliens" of bringing "crime, drugs and other plagues" to the country.