The airline is suspending its repatriation operation launched last December. Stuck abroad since March 2020 because of the health crisis, Algerian nationals see the prospect of returning home fading a little further.
The relief was short lived. The repatriation operation, awaited for nearly a year by the some 25 Algerian nationals stranded abroad due to the closure of Algerian borders last March, will not end in the end. Launched by Air Algérie on December 23, 2020 and scheduled until January 31, 2021, it is suspended until further notice. The program was to be carried out from five countries, namely France, Spain, Germany, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
The management of the airline has spread a word internally in which it asks its sales agents to offer new options to customers who already have tickets for the period from January 8 to January 31. Among them, the change of date. The use of reimbursement is only mentioned as a last option.
Several sources say the decision is imposed by the country's top authorities, but no official communication has been made.
However, no details on the reasons for this judgment. "They do not explain the reasons to us, they just give us orders", confides a manager.Air Algeria. Several sources say the decision is imposed by the country's top authorities, but no official communication has been made so far.
Despite the absence of a statement, the news is starting to circulate via some online media and on social networks. Gathered in Facebook groups of tens of thousands of members, Algerians in forced exile are losing patience. “Total silence from Air Algeria and the authorities. Confirm the cancellation or deny it but do something, ”claims Yasmine, from Toulouse. “I am stunned. I'm so sick of this situation that I no longer want to be repatriated, ”Sarah loses her temper. She has just learned, through a call from Air Algeria, of the cancellation of her repatriation flight scheduled for January 17 from Montreal to Algiers.
“When the borders closed last March, it was certainly not the best solution, but we showed understanding. We understood that it was to fight against Covid-19, we were patient, but we did not expect it to last 11 months! »Gets upset Samy *, an Algerian citizen stranded in Paris. “This is abuse! Initially, we could be accommodated by relatives, but not for a year, it is impossible. "
Faced with this lingering situation, some are forced to take undeclared jobs and housing
Faced with this lingering situation, some are forced to take undeclared jobs and housing. This is the case of Nassim *, 32 years old. Originally from Bejaïa, he went to France for a short stay in February. “A business trip,” he says. Only a few days later, Algeria announced the closure of its borders to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The thirty-something sees his return ticket canceled. He's stuck in Paris.
Nassim had no choice but to sublet an apartment. “I pay 500 euros per month for a 14 m² studio apartment that I share with a roommate. I have neither the possibility of receiving state aid, nor the possibility of working since I am not a resident here. There is money coming out but nothing coming in ”. To meet his needs, he has already transferred the equivalent of 7000 euros in dinars from Algeria. “I drew on my savings, but this is no longer possible, I can last a maximum of two more months, then I will be homeless. "
The uncomfortable Algerian consulates
“I took all the steps imaginable: wrote emails, my family in Algeria went to register me on the lists of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there, I called every day… nothing. No return. Like Nassim, they are several thousand to meet in front of the various Algerian consulates to demand justice. In vain. "If by chance we agree to receive you, we answer you with arrogance and we absolutely do not help you", regrets Myriam *, 57 years old, stuck in Marseille.
One thing seems to be able to unblock the situation: money. "If you slip a small ticket at the consulate, you are registered on the priority lists for repatriation", denounces Aziz Bensadek, member of the Marseille collective "Open the borders in Algeria". Same story in Paris: “People registered on the consular lists and contacted to leave are refused access to the plane once at the airport. If they pay, they pass, ”adds a member of a collective of Algerian citizens stranded in Paris.
If you slip a small ticket at the consulate, you will be placed on the priority lists for repatriation
Charges difficult to prove, even if JA was able to obtain a telephone recording in which a man who presents himself as "an intermediary with the consulate", asks for 2500 euros, a copy of the passport and a phone number. “You will receive a call from the consulate and will be repatriated within a week,” he promises. He insists on the amount: “I am not the one who fixes the amount, I am only an intermediary, there is no negotiation possible. If you have the 2500 euros send it to me. Otherwise, no need. "
Desperate, some stranded citizens let themselves be seduced by the option. Others, less fortunate, reach their country with the help of smugglers in Tunisia. “They take a Paris-Tunis flight. Then they pay people to let them cross the Algerian border. They enter their own country illegally, it's scandalous, ”says the member of the Paris collective. The "service" would be billed "between 300 euros and 400 euros". "As long as the borders remain closed, it is the door open to all shenanigans," says Aziz Bensadek.
The demand for the opening of borders now exceeds citizens' demands. In early January, Senator Abdelouahab Benzaïm and the deputy of the national community established abroad, Noureddine Belmeddah, sent a joint letter to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
They denounce a situation "never experienced since independence", where "Algerians are required to obtain an authorization to return to their own country". Politicians are calling on the president to take "quick and effective" action. With, in particular, the opening of land, air and sea borders to allow the return of all nationals without conditions, except those relating to the health protocol. And the removal "of the prior authorizations and registrations which have exhausted everyone". According to them, it would be better to "let Air Algeria and foreign companies manage flights to Algeria on their own".
* First names have been changed.
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