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They appeared in February. Concrete panels more than two meters high installed on the coast of Oran, Algeria’s second city (west). Since then, the inhabitants of Aïn El-Turck (called “Laayoune” by the Oranais), a sub-prefecture made up of several seaside towns located 15 km west of the city, did not take off. “We had nature to clear our minds, but even that is confiscated from us! »annoyed a tradesman from Trouville, a residential area.
Like him, residents now have to go through narrow openings to descend the stairs that lead to the sandbank. Only the “doors” and a few “portholes” let the Mediterranean Sea appear to walkers who are still rare this month of March.
For several weeks, doubt hovered over the reason for the installation of these walls erected by a public construction company at the entrance to certain beaches. Workers, interviewed by the local press, suggested that the works were intended to hinder illegal emigration by sea.
On Sunday March 13, a statement from the wali (prefect) of Oran put an end to the rumours. “This decision was not taken by a single person but by the wilaya’s security commission in the general interest”said Said Sayoud. “The situation has reached an unacceptable point, especially on the west side of the wilaya”he added, taking the journalists to witness: “You know that departures have decreased by 70% and it is not only thanks to the barriers, but also to the efforts of the security services and civil society actors”said the official.
The west coasts of the country are a preferred starting point for “harraga”, applicants for undocumented exile to Europe, for their proximity to southern Spain. According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, just over 18,000 illegal entries, mostly Algerian nationals – followed by Moroccans – were recorded in 2021 via the western Mediterranean route.
“Now, powerful boats make it possible to make the crossing in two hours. Prices reach 800,000 dinars one way for a seat [environ 5 100 euros]. The smugglers carry the harragas and, on their return, they no longer return empty but with drugs”says Abdelkader Zouit.
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