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Maintaining border closures: Cold shower for Algerians stranded in Canada

On that date, Air Algérie had suspended flights between Algiers and Montreal and other international destinations following the closure of borders. Nearly 300 Algerians not resident in Canada, according to various sources, are stranded in this country awaiting repatriation. The Algerian government had conducted a census of them on two occasions.

The first time through the Algerian Consulate in Montreal and a second time on the Internet by the services of the Ministry of the Interior. But so far, no news of the repatriation date has been communicated to them. In the meantime, Canada has organised 5 repatriation flights for its citizens and permanent residents who were stranded in Algeria.

Against all expectations, Air Canada planes took off empty from Montreal for this repatriation operation, which was particularly disappointing for the Algerians stranded in Canada.

They had pinned their hopes on these flights, especially since the foreign ministers of the two countries, Sabri Boukadoum and François-Philippe Champagne, had a telephone conversation on May 11.

Overwhelmed by rumours and questions, the director of Air Algérie in Canada, Amel Berrahal, whose Montreal agency is working with the curtains drawn because of the pandemic, finally gave up: “I don’t know any more than you do. Come back when you hear the President’s decision to reopen the borders.”

While some of the Algerians stranded in Canada have found help at friends’ homes, others are living in difficult situations because the Canadian government has no provision for this category of foreigners. The consulate has taken on some of the most difficult cases. “We’re not tourists, we came for a few days on tight budgets and now we’re destitute in full confinement.

And even those who are staying with friends, the situation is very embarrassing. We have families, children in Algeria, we want to go home,” says one of the stranded. Malek, an Algerian, whose wife has been stuck in Ottawa since March, finds “the situation hellish. My 22-month-old daughter is asking for her mother. What kills us is the lack of communication.

We have no information about the repatriation programme,” he explains. On social media, some people ask, “Do we have to make a scandal at the airport like what happened in Istanbul, Turkey, for us to be repatriated?” A demonstration is planned today in front of the Algerian consulate in Montreal to demand repatriation. A solution has emerged earlier this week for some. It would be to go through Tunisia.

With the resumption of its flights on Saturday 27 June between Tunis and Montreal, Tunis Air offers an opportunity for Algerians stranded in Canada to travel to Tunisia and then Algeria by land, according to statements by its director for North America on Radio Canada.

Some Algerians stranded in Canada have begun the steps to get there, particularly those related to the Covid test required to enter Tunisia. “We’ll be next to Algeria and we’ll wait for the land border to open,” said one of the blocked people. A solution that is not accessible to everyone, of course.

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