On Tuesday, September 27, Algeria reportedly returned about 40 Moroccan migrants to Morocco via its land border.
A group of about 40 Moroccan migrants was returned to Algeria on Tuesday, September 27, via the shared land border between the two north African countries, reported the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP). The border stretches almost 1,500 kilometers from the Mediterranean to the Western Sahara.
Algeria closed its land border with Morocco back in 1994, after years of dispute and wars over the boundaries of the two countries' territories. Trade does happen between the neighbors but via air or sea rather than land.
So, opening the land border is seen as a relatively rare occurrence, particularly at the moment where tensions between the two states worsened over the summer with claims and counter-claims flying about hostile actions, drug smuggling and terrorism.
'40 people repatriated'
The return of the migrants was made public by a Moroccan NGO, reports AFP. "The Algerian authorities handed around 40 migrants to their Moroccan counterparts via the Zouj Beghal land crossing, which was opened specifically,” stated Hassan Amari, the head of the Association for Helping Migrants in Difficulty.
Apparently, the group had written to the Algerian authorities asking them “to release seven detained Moroccans,” and then to the group’s “surprise, they repatriated 40 people.”
According to AFP, the Moroccan authorities “sent buses to take the migrants home.” Amari explained that some Moroccans may have set off from Morocco to Spain but ended up in Algeria after their boats got lost at sea. Some of them, Amari told AFP are subsequently arrested.
Emigration from the region
According to a paper looking at emigration patterns in North Africa, published by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) in 2020, migration from Morocco has been increasing "exponentially" since the 1990s.
Most of that emigration has been towards Europe or the US and Canada. In 2020, according to the paper, around 4 million Moroccans, and 2 million Algerians lived abroad. Whereas previously much of the migration from the Maghreb was towards France, increasing numbers of Moroccans and Tunisians now live in Italy, Spain and Germany.