A growing number of sub-Saharan Africans are using Algeria as a stopping point on their way to Europe. Some are fleeing war and ethnic conflict in their home countries; others are escaping famine or drought, many are simply aspiring to better economic conditions and a new life. But Algeria appears to be undergoing a change from transit country to host country. Once intended only as a temporary stop, Algeria has, for many migrants, become a permanent home.
Whether in transit or staying long-term, migrants occupy an awkward ground. Figures are hard to come by, and because the migrants are not officially present, facilities for their care and support are lacking. The attitude of both the authorities and the public veers between uneasy tolerance and open discrimination. In the public eye, migrants are often associated with drug dealing and other crimes. Algerian law fails to distinguish between human traffickers and their victims, and in recent years there has been a crackdown on forged documents. Yet the number of migrants entering—and staying in—Algeria clearly continues to rise, as can be seen by the growing shanty towns.