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Algeria is the second largest country in Africa. Since gaining independence from France in 1962, the country has experienced cycles of political instability and violence culminating in the conflict between government forces and insurgent Islamist groups during the 1990s.

Causes of forced migration

Much of the forced migration in Algeria – primarily conflict-induced displacement – can be attributed to the violent conflict in the country during the 1990s which saw widespread attacks on civilians. The fighting is thought to have claimed as many as 200,000 lives and is believed to have produced significant levels of internal displacement as people fled conflict-affected areas. Accurate numbers of those displaced remain unknown due to the lack of reliable information, though estimates are as high as between 500,000 and 1.5 million.

While the situation has stabilised somewhat since the most intense fighting during the mid-to-late 1990s, following renewed attempts at reconciliation, intermittent attacks and clashes between the government and the remaining insurgent groups carry on. The continued attacks have led to the government to take a strong stand against Islamist militants and to leave in place a state of emergency, first declared in 1992.

In addition to the displacement issues associated with the conflict, Algeria has suffered a number of serious natural disasters including drought, flooding and earthquakes. The 2003 earthquake which affected the capital left just over 2,000 people dead 10,000 injured and many more thousands homeless.

Refugees hosted in Algeria

Algeria is party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol; as a member of the African Union, it is also party to the 1969 OAU Convention. Despite being a signatory to these international refugee conventions, Algeria has yet to establish a comprehensive national asylum system, with UNHCR, rather than the Algerian government, undertaking refugee status determination (RSD) under its mandate. It is estimated that over 4,000 Palestinian refugees live in Algeria, with a further 111 Sub-Saharan African refugees having been recognized by UNHCR in 2009. At the end of August 2009, UNHCR was processing asylum applications from approximately 300 asylum-seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa (including from Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Liberia and Nigeria).

Since 1975 Algeria has also been host to significant numbers of Sahrawi refugees from the Western Sahara. The majority of these refugees reside in four refugee camps in the south-western corner of the country around the military town of Tindouf, where they remain largely dependent upon humanitarian assistance provided by the Algerian Government, UNHCR, WFP and numerous non-governmental organizations.

While official figures vary, in 1999 a preliminary registration conducted by UNHCR concluded that at least 107,000 camp-based refugees (potential voters and their immediate families) would wish to return to the Western Sahara under the auspices of a UNHCR repatriation programme if a referendum for self-determination is conducted (UNHCR, 2000:187; WFP, 1999:4). The total camp population, including “non-voters” living in the camps, is thus now calculated by UNHCR and WFP as being between 120,000 and 155,000.

This resource summary highlights a sample selection of web-based resources available on FMO that focus on Algeria, specifically on issues relating to forced migration. Links are provided to full-text documents, articles, web resources and relevant organisations.

FMO Resources


Selected full-text documents (for more, search in the Digital Library)

Web Resources

Selected web-based information resources (for more, search the FMO website)

Relevant Organizations

Contact details for organizations based in Algeria (for more, search in the Organizations Directory)

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creative commons logo (CC) BY-NC-ND This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Two Saharawi refugee children playing football in Smara camp

Two Saharawi refugee children playing football in Smara camp, Tindouf region. Sport helps to break the monotony of long term displacement.

© UNHCR / P. Mateu / March 2009.

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A map of Algeria

Algeria (highlighted in red) in North Africa.

Last updated Sep 06, 2011