Algeria: National reconciliation fails to address needs of IDPs
29 September 2009
p.38). Several newspapers reported mas- sive displacement from rural areas, of up to an estimated 1.5 million people as of late 2002, because of the security situa- tion (L’Expression, 18 November 2002). According to a newspaper, the President said on one occasion that 1.5 million people had been displaced (Figaro, 6 April 2004). However, this report was quickly refuted by the Minister of the In- terior, who stated that only 500,000 peo- ple were internally displaced during the conflict (El Watan, 10 April 2004).
Most IDPs fled to the relative safety of cities, including Oran, Blida, Médéa, Chlef and Tiaret, where they stayed with family and friends and possibly eventu- ally settled. Some were displaced by a combination of insecurity and poverty in areas affected by the conflict. While families were already fleeing insecurity during the first years of the crisis, the first massacres of civilians in late 1996 initiated massive movements towards the cities. Thousands fled to the outskirts of Algiers, of whom many were forced to flee for a second or third time when the conflict approached the capital during the summer and autumn of 1997.
property by rebel groups also reportedly led to massive displacements near Reli- zane in July 2002 (Le Quotidien d’Oran, 31 July 2002).
There is no more recent information on IDP numbers, although the Ministry of the Interior reported to the UN Human Rights Committee in October 2007 that there were no IDPs remaining in the country because they had all returned home (HRC, 24 October 2007). Govern- ment figures on urban growth rates show that the expansion of cities has slowed over time, and so appear to corroborate the above statement; however they do not take into account the many people living in slums around cities without legal resi- dence there (Mesli, Alkarama for Human Rights, 2009), and the data is incomplete because the government does not system- atically release full indicators (USDoS, 2008). Simple observation reveals that slums around cities have grown signifi- cantly in Algiers, Blida, Médéa, Chlef, Tiaret, Sidi Bel Abbes, Relizane, and Oran (Mesli, Alkarama for Human Rights, 2009).
Towards 1998, when the army had gained control over the major urban cen- tres, fighting moved back to rural areas. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were subsequently forced to flee continuing massacres, armed attacks and large-scale human rights violations. Media reports also documented cases where the police forcibly cleared villages suspected of supporting rebel groups (Liberté, 14 Au- gust 2004; Le Matin, 16 May 2001; Comité Justice pour l’Algérie dossier no.2, May 2004, pp.20-21). The destruc- tion and theft of crops and agricultural
Given the magnitude of the displacement situation, it is likely that a significant number of IDPs have not been able to at- tain durable solutions by 2009. Informa- tion on return movements is mainly drawn from newspaper articles or fragmented data presented in project implementation reports. Generally, access to government information is restricted (USDoS, 2008), and the government has not published fig- ures on return, although the President stated in an April 2004 speech that 700,000 people of 1.5 million IDPs had returned (Figaro, 6 April 2004). Similarly,