Essay on Migration and Refugees from the Algeria

Formerly served as a base for Barbary pirates, Algeria was concurred during the imperialistic era of the 19th century and was declared as part of France in 1830. The French occupation significantly affected the Algerian demography, as more than 100,000 European immigrants came to settle the fertile and oil-reach grounds of Algeria during the second half of the 19th century, while about a third of the original Algerians were migrated out of the country.

In 1954, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) declared a war of independence against Pierre Mendès-France’s collapsing Forth Republic. The war ended in 1958, when French President Charles de Gaulle declared a referendum in Algeria regarding its prospective independence. Finally, the newly established FLN-led People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria declared its complete independence in 1962.

At that time, over one million Algerians had a French citizenship. This included mostly Algerians from European origin (mostly French), native Algerian Jews and about 200,000 Algerian Muslims who fought on the French side during the war of independence (a.k.a. Harkis). Throughout 1962, over 90% of this group immigrated to France; their portion in the Algerian population after the 1962 immigration wave was about 1%.

Most of the Algerian immigrants settled in the southern regions of France. Native Algerians totalled to about 350,000 in 1945 and 500,000 in 1964. About 45% of them were male workers and the rest (mostly women and children) were not considered productive. Between 1968 and 1973, about 180,000 Algerian workers immigrated legally to France as part of an agreement with the Algerian government. Several incentive schemes offered by both governments to encourage Algerian immigrants to return home received very little response.

During the 1970s, a rising concern for the implications of immigration on the French labour market has led the local unions to adopt a clear anti-immigration line. Foreign workers from the Maghreb, in particular Algerian, Moroccans and Tunisians were accused for taking jobs from French workers and for causing a downward pressure on wages. Because of this pressure and the economic recession after the 1973 Arab embargo, the French government became much stricter towards North Africans illegal immigrants, which totalled to about 7,000 people each year. In addition, all former immigration agreements with Algeria have been revoked, making legal migration to France practically impossible.

These steps, however, had the exact opposite effect: instead of influencing Algerians to move back to their homeland, the new regulations brought about fear to leave the country. That is, Algerians were reluctant to attempt building new life in Algeria, worrying that the possibility to return afterwards to France would not be possible.

The 1980s brought a new wave of anti-migration in France, led by trade unions; Algerian workers lost social benefits and were deprived from their union membership and the right for protection against employers. All these steps created a notion of ethnic hatred, and resulted in rather closed Algerian communities within France, with little interest in integration and a motivation to further strengthen their families and communal institutions.