In Algeria, Migration Is a Symptom of a Broader Social Tragedy

In Algeria, Migration Is a Symptom of a Broader Social Tragedy
People wave Algerian flags during a protest held to mark the second anniversary of the mass demonstrations commonly known as the Hirak Movement, Algiers, Algeria, Feb. 22, 2021 (DPA photo via AP Images).

On March 21, nine Algerian migrants died when the boat taking them to Italy capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. The tragic story, along with countless others like it, highlights the cost of migration, which is not limited to the loss of lives. In fact, the highly publicized reports of migrant deaths have increasingly shaped a vision of irregular migration as a symptom of a broader social tragedy, one that drives thousands of skilled young people from Africa to set off down unknown, dangerous paths in search of a better future for themselves.

In the last stretch of that path, migrants embark on the perilous sea crossings that can sometimes take up to a day, with little safety equipment and under inhumane conditions. A typical boat is filled with dozens of migrants, including families, women and children, worsening the impact of the catastrophe if disaster strikes along these routes. Their journeys across the Mediterranean typically end at the Spanish and Italian coasts, from where they hope to leverage the free movement benefits granted by the European Union’s Schengen Area to continue onward to other countries.

But long before they reach Europe’s shores, or even embark for them, many migrants resort to criminal networks that defy national, regional and international authorities to smuggle them along risky routes in order to reach the Mediterranean. These irregular routes empower organized crime networks, take a toll on domestic economies and lead to societal fractures that are difficult to heal. In addition to these short-term impacts, irregular migration also impedes Algeria’s economic development and fuels a sense of defeatism among many segments of society.

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