More and more Algerians are joining Spain at the risk of their lives

It is a calm and smooth Mediterranean that about fifty boats split this Sunday in October, loaded with “Harraga”, these Algerians more and more numerous to join Spain at the risk of their life to flee despair.

“I would rather die at sea than stay in Algeria”, loose Khaled Dih. With dark circles under his eyes and his Nike wet and full of sand, he has just arrived on a beach in Almeria, in the south-east of Spain, after a night crossing of six hours and nearly 200 km from Oran, in north-western Algeria. “There’s nothing in the village, no work”, annoys this amateur boxer, fan of the French rap group PNL, readjusting his ponytail between two cigarettes.

Khaled chose the day of his 21 years to leave Algeria like thousands of harraga (literally “the burners”), these migrants who often set their identity documents on fire – to avoid being identified and sent back to Algeria – and who “burn” the border, in other words cross it. clandestinely. And dangerously: at least 309 migrants, including thirteen children, have lost their lives in the western Mediterranean since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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On the boat, “It traced, boom, boom”, describes Khaled, shaking his body to mimic the tremors, before stopping because of the pain caused by them. “You couldn’t do anything”, neither drink nor eat, therefore “I was thinking of my parents, of my friends”. Sitting in front of the station, he stings his nose after three sleepless nights since his departure from Annaba, his home town (northeast), to Oran, 900 km to the west, where he spent 4,500 euros to cross – a sum representing many months of salary.

Khaled is waiting for a bus to Barcelona, ​​from where he will try to go to France, like the vast majority of harraga. ” I do not speak Spanish. I have family and friends in France so I can’t stay here on my own. “

“Babies, pregnant women, the disabled”

The number of Algerians arriving on the coasts of south-eastern Spain or the Balearic Islands has jumped in recent months. An internal document from the Spanish authorities consulted by AFP indicates that 9,664 Algerians have entered Spain illegally since the start of the year, 20% more than a year ago. According to the European agency Frontex, they are the first nationality to enter Spain illegally, and the third in Europe. Algerian side, 4,704 harraga on departure were intercepted in 2021, more than half of which in September, according to the defense ministry.

More and more women and children are risking their lives to cross. It’s a “New phenomenon”, with “Women, babies, pregnant women and people with disabilities”, what “Tells us about the degree of despair” in Algeria, analyzes Saïd Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH). The NGO Save The Children claims to have taken care of more than one hundred children who arrived in September on the coast of Andalusia.

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Across the Mediterranean, the anguish is enormous for the families of harraga, testifies Francisco José Clemente Martin. This 24-year-old Almérien, member of the International Center for the Identification of Missing Migrants, informs the migrants’ relatives on a daily basis, sometimes going so far as to send them photos of corpses to identify them. Marked calls “By cries, tears”, he says: “A lot of mothers end up in the hospital because of the stress. “

Harraga 28-year-old arrived in Almeria a year ago, Ahmed Bensafia, originally from Tipaza (north), had not informed his family of his departure “So as not to worry them”, he confides, wearing a Mouloudia Club d’Alger jersey. He considers that he had no other choice, because in Algeria “The salary is so low” that one “Working day does not even guarantee you a meal in the evening”. Even if, with hindsight, he advises his compatriots to “Not to risk their life” like he did.

If they manage to escape the Spanish police, Algerian migrants still have a long road strewn with dangers to France. At the beginning of October, three of them were hit by a train near Saint-Jean-de-Luz (south-west) while they were lying on the rails to rest and escape controls. So much so that two days after leaving Almeria, Khaled Dih has only one word when crossing the French border: “Relieved”.

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The World with AFP

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More and more Algerians are joining Spain at the risk of their lives