Access to Asylum: While the country’s laws provide generally for asylum or refugee status, the government has not established a formal system through which displaced persons can request asylum. There were no reports that the government granted refugee status and asylum to new refugee applicants during the year. According to the UNHCR, the government did not accept UNHCR-determined refugee status for individuals from sub-Saharan Africa fleeing conflict, specifically Nigerians, Chadians, Malians, and Nigerians. The UNHCR reported an increase in the number of sub-Saharan Africans (notably Cameroonians) applying for asylum at their offices in Algiers during the year. As of September 10, the office had registered 1,209 asylum cases (totaling 1,365 individuals) and had registered 199 recognized refugees. The majority of the asylum seekers were from Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. The “mandate” refugees were primarily from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and Palestine. The Algiers office also reported that in the last year it successfully resettled 27 refugees: 21 to the United States and six to Sweden. There was no evidence of any pattern of discrimination toward asylum applicants, but the lack of a formal asylum system made this difficult to credibly assess.
According to the UNHCR, as of mid-September, approximately 18, 000 Syrian nationals resided in various cities in the country, of which approximately 500 were registered refugees. More were awaiting registration by the government and the Algerian Red Crescent. The government continued to maintain “welcome facilities” that provided food and shelter for those Syrians without means to support themselves. The facilities were located at a summer camp in the seaside area of Algiers known as Sidi Fredj. The government has imposed visa entry requirements on Syrians and has turned back some individuals at the airport.
Following the outbreak of violence in northern Mali in January, observers including the ICRC and the UNHCR reported an influx of individuals into Algeria across the Malian border inconsistent with traditional migratory movements. Both organizations estimated that as many as 20,000 migrants have been absorbed into local communities in southern Algeria. A small refugee camp managed by the Algerian Red Crescent near the southern city of Bordj Badj Mokhtar housed an estimated 350 individual Malian refugees in September. These numbers, however, have not been verified by the UNHCR since, citing security concerns, the government has not allowed the UNHCR or the international community access to Malian refugees.
Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, such as Sahrawi refugees to Western Sahara or Morocco. Authorities did not extend legal protections to asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa or Syrians residing in Algiers.
Refugee Abuse: In September authorities in Annaba conducted a security sweep that resulted in the arrest and deportation of approximately 50 sub-Saharan African migrants, some of whom may have been qualified refugees.
Employment: The government did not make a provision for refugee employment. Refugees relied largely on remittances from family, the support of local family and acquaintances, and assistance from the Algerian Red Crescent and international aid organizations.
The government provided protection to an estimated 90,000 to 165,000 Sahrawi refugees who departed Western Sahara after Morocco took control of the territory in the 1970s. The UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), the Algerian Red Crescent, the Sahrawi Red Crescent, and other organizations also assisted Sahrawi refugees. Neither the government nor the refugee leadership allowed the UNHCR to conduct a registration or complete a census of the Sahrawi refugees. In the absence of formal registration, UNHCR and WFP humanitarian assistance was based on a planning figure of 90,000 most vulnerable refugees with 35,000 requiring supplemental rations.
Access to Basic Services: Sahrawi refugees lived predominantly in five camps near the city of Tindouf, administered by the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Harma and Rio de Oro (Polisario). The remote location of the camps and lack of government presence resulted in lack of access to employment, basic services, education, police, and courts for Sahrawis. Access to basic services for other refugee groups (notably Malians, Syrians, and Nigeriens) remained difficult to assess this year. The government provided free health care to refugee children. The government permitted refugee children to attend school, but refugees and international organizations reported on the difficulty experienced by refugee children in their attempts to integrate into the Algerian education system.
Durable Solutions: The government generally did not accept refugees from third countries for resettlement. The Sahrawi refugees have not sought local integration or naturalization during their 40-year stay in the refugee camps near Tindouf, and their government-in-exile, the Polisario, continued to call for a referendum on independence in Western Sahara. Other refugee groups, predominately Syrian, did not seek resettlement, local integration, or naturalization, expressing an intention to return to their home countries when conditions were stable, or to move on to Europe.
Temporary Protection: The law did not provide formal temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, but the government continued its practice of declining to deport migrants expressing a credible fear of return to their home country based on political instability. The government expressed concern over growing numbers of migrants seeking the protection of asylum application without qualifications.