- Title: FRANCE: Young Algerians look to France for their future
- Date: 3rd February 2011
- Summary: VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN
- Embargoed: 18th February 2011 12:00
- Location: France, France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVABT7GSQ0C6APWTM41ON1WE4OFZ
- Story Text: France has long been a popular destination for immigrants over the years and with growing difficulties in a number of countries around the world, immigrants flock to the European destinations hoping to find a better life.
But getting the right documents once stepping onto French soil is difficult, and sometimes impossible, which leads to a number of immigrants finding themselves living in the country illegally.
Because of historical links and geographic proximity, France is the top destination for North Africans wishing to leave their country and find a new life elsewhere. For those who are illegal immigrants, life in France doesn't turn out to be quite what they'd expected.
"The life of undocumented residents is very difficult. You don't exist. It's a life that I wish for no one. You don't have any rights, it's like you're dead," said Youssef, a 36-year-old Algerian immigrant, who has been living in Hauts de Seine, a Paris suburb, for the past seven years.
An estimated 8.5 percent of the French population is made up of foreign-born immigrants. Algerians are one of the largest immigrant communities in France.
Being an illegal immigrant means not only bearing the risk of being arrested and sent home. But illegal immigrants also face problems problems finding housing, medical care and work.
An increasing number of highly educated Algerian youths are seeking asylum in France. According to experts who work with the immigrants, there are about 350,000 illegal Algerian immigrants in the country.
Youssef said the problem lies with the political system in their country of origin.
"The problem in Algeria before everything else, is of democracy. We can't solve social problems but above all, it's a political question. I support the protesters in the Arab world. I hope that Algeria becomes independent," he said.
On Saturday (January 29) the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) in Algeria organised a demonstration to protest against the 19-year-old state of emergency and to demand political liberalisation.
Youssef's friend Abdenour, 38, has been living as an illegal Algerian immigrant in France for eight years. He could not find work in Algeria despite having a degree in engineering.
Abdenour said the reason so many Algerians leave their country is the same reason so many young people in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have taken recently to demonstrating and protesting against the ruling regimes in their countries.
"The youth in Tunisia, in Algeria, are fed up of not being able to find work and housing. A young person, who comes to be 40 years old, not married, unemployed, with no house -- the result -- they protest. If I was over there, I would do the same," he said.
A local association in Hauts de Seine helps Algerian immigrants who are in a similar situation to Abdenour and Youssef.
The association follows up on the demands of asylum seekers and sometimes organises protests. They assist more than 6,000 people.
The co-ordinator of the association, Sadok Guitoun, said the files of 9,000 Algerians seeking asylum in France are still being processed by the French Police. He said even though the process for regularisation is slow, clandestine immigration from Algeria to France and other European countries will continue and even increase.
"It's normal for people to leave. In this country (Algeria), there is no hope. When there is no project for a society in a country, the residents will leave. And not only the youth. I met a 50-year-old doctor who left Algeria and who is without any papers today. There will be more and more clandestine immigration in France and more generally towards Europe," said Guitoun.
Only last week the IMF said Algeria must tackle youth unemployment and create jobs, highlighting a problem that has fuelled unrest throughout the region.
Jobless young men spearheaded protests in neighbouring Tunisia that helped to topple that country's long-serving president, and there have been anti-government protests in Egypt as well as rioting in Algeria itself.
Energy exporter Algeria has about 150 billion U.S dollars in foreign currency reserves, almost no external debt, and forecasts economic growth of 4 percent in 2011. But the economy, dominated by the oil and gas sector, produces too few jobs.
According to official figures, Algeria's unemployment rate is around 10 percent, while joblessness among the young is more than twice that figure.
Algeria responded to a nationwide outbreak of rioting over price rises early this month by reducing the price of some staple foodstuffs. But the potential remains for new unrest.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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