Algerians, mainly young men, try to leave their country, without passport or visa, on boats, risking their lives. In the Maghrebi dialect, these candidates for emigration harraga (the "burners") are named, because they "burn" the borders and the steps necessary for a legal migration. In addition, if they arrive in Europe, they destroy, they "burn" their identity papers to try to evade expulsion near the Hittists of the 1980s and those who joined the groups Armed Islamists during the conflict of the 1990s, harraga were erected as a figure symbolizing the despair of Algerian youth during the 2000s. They are invoked as the ultimate proof of the dysfunctions that affect the country.
Established in Algeria between January and July 2011, while the uprisings were in full swing in the Arab world, we conducted a field study on the scope of this migratory phenomenon on the society that harraga attempted desperate to leave. Abdelmalek Sayad's imbalance between emigration and immigration literature inspired this research.
In an article titled "The Migratory Phenomenon: A Relationship of Dominance" he described a literature on failed emigration subordinated to the literature on immigration and called for the development of a science of emigration which would be a science of absence and absent. In order to contribute to this, we undertook a series of semi-directive interviews in two regions particularly affected by harraga departures : the Oran region in western Algeria and that of Annaba in the East.
A large part of these interviews was conducted with candidates to el-harga … having made from one to four attempts to start having failed. Conducted in dialect using a flexible interview grid, these interviews gave an important place to the analysis of the political situation in Algeria and in the neighboring countries affected by the Arab uprisings (particularly Tunisia, Egypt and Libya). This spontaneous displacement of the themes of the interview treated the result of two dynamics: on the one hand, current events were of major importance and received a very intense media treatment; on the other hand, Algeria was concerned.
From January 3 to 6, 2011 the country was hit by riots of great magnitude and various political parties and organizations such as the National Coordination for Change and Democracy ( cncd ) called the Algerian people to demonstrate.
Moreover, the thesis of "contagion" and the supposed "domino effect" dominated the analyzes of the uprisings in the Arab world. The articles were multiplying in the press and commentators followed one another on television sets glossing over the likelihood that Algeria would be "next on the list".
The similarities between the Algerian situation and that of the neighboring countries affected by the uprisings were highlighted: a young population, a high unemployment rate, inflation combined with stagnant wages, the undemocratic nature of political institutions, corruption, etc.
Also, during our interviews, the harraga commented, without having been explicitly invited, the political situation and the course of events in the countries affected by the uprisings, the course taken by these interviews inspiring new questions. Why did these urban youth who felt marginalized wanted to embark on such a risky migration venture rather than stay in Algeria, demonstrate and protest in order to change the situation in the country? It is to this question that the present contribution will be devoted.
During interviews, harraga was asked to describe their daily life. What prevailed then was their impression of "bad living". The "mal-vie", said in French, is a very used expression in Algerian dialect. The "mal-life" is primarily economic, it is due to the precariousness of jobs and low wages.
Almost all harraga had no formal work at the time of the interviews. Most said they were "navigating", which is a form of unscrambling, low income and lack of stability. They are shoplifters, bakers, fishermen or unemployed. The low visibility they have of their financial future, the lack of income in the event of illness or the seizure of their goods as part of the fight against informal trade contribute to their ill-being.
Mohammed made an attempt to leave at the time of the interview and saves for a second attempt: " I am 23 years old and I have nothing. I am a seller of shoplifting cigarettes. I work from day to day. Sometimes [les policiers] stops me and I am confiscated. There are good days, but I can not make a future like this. The essential thing is to leave ". Ali is the same age. He is a hairdresser. When he talks about life, he says, " You work, you eat and you drink. You have no future ". All their days are alike: a daily without leisure and a future without perspective.
This situation is all the more difficult because the socio-economic order appears illegitimate and the success is disconnected from the effort. Sofiane, 30, is all the more frustrated that what he wants does not seem unreasonable: "I want a job; it would change everything. I will say thank you my God. I will get married. I will build a life for myself as my parents did before me. But they do not leave you. If I stay to wait, I will have nothing. I will lose my life, like that … They talk about pre-employment, young jobs, but in reality, to get them you have to pay bribes or know a person well placed. In this country we add water to the sea, we give only to those who already have. We are not given anything. Today, if I want to work as a security guard, say in a depot or any company, I give my CV […]. The recruiter calls me and tells me to introduce myself. When I introduce myself, he expects me outside and says to me: "You give me 70 000 dinars [environ 700 €] and the post is for you, my friend". How dare they ask you for money when you want to work? ".
Thus, this "bad life" due to the precariousness of their economic situation is to be linked to a deep feeling of injustice. They are convinced that the wealth of the country is confiscated and that they will never be able to access it. The harraga say that it is impossible to succeed without money, because it allows to corrupt, and without network to mobilize. They do not see any improvement in their situation, whatever their efforts. They insist on the inability to get their due and the injustice that prevails in the country. Larbi, 24, made two attempts to leave by boat in 2010. He claims to understand nothing about his country, where the law only applies to the poor and the weak. Ali, 23, said: " I love my country, it's my country that does not love me ".
There is an expression in dialect, hogra which often comes up in interviews. This term, which literally means "contempt", has a much broader meaning and refers to an abuse of power that creates a sense of frustration and helplessness in the person who suffers it. Often synonymous with injustice and impunity, hogra also refers to the contempt of rulers for their people. The harraga denounce the collusion between economic elites and political elites. They describe, as a whole, an illegitimate and non-meritocratic economic and political system (some interviewees have described the Algerian system as "mediocrity" and "thuggery").
The leaders are even less legitimate that some interviewees had the impression that some of these leaders were fleeing the system they had put in place, thus avoiding the malfunctions that they themselves perpetuate in institutions in Algerian public hospitals by sending their families to education and care in Europe. Larbi thus declared that he did not wish much, that he would be satisfied with the " crumbs " of what the leaders give to their children.