الاخبار

Algeria: African Workers: miserable slavery life

2017-01-30

Raouf Malal - A member of Arab Trade Union media network

Algeria - civil wars in African countries displaced hundreds of thousands of Africans to Algeria in search for peace and stability, however, the reality was bitter, they were gathered in complexes in south Algeria where there are no necessities of a decent life, they were denied the right to work legally to preserve their dignity.

Mamadou Mastali fled from Mali with his family to escape the horrors of war to Algeria in a journey that lasted more than five months. He started begging to provide food for his family and soon he became a slave for employers in  north Algeria who took advantage of his needs  and made him work in construction projects in exchange of low wage.

Mamadou confirms that he is looking for a way to escape to Europe to ensure better life for his family and better future for his children.

Most Africans are employed in the construction and concrete they work as carriers or drivers, and are considered very important labourers because they earn low wages since the laws in Algeria make it difficult for them to find legal and decent jobs that respect the international treaties.

Mamadou’s friend called Suleiman Macquarie Nigerian citizen married and has three children he works with Mamadou in construction project in Blida province he tells us that the unbearable conditions he and his colleagues face from the enslavement and forced labour without health insurance, and wages that do not exceed $ 100 a month.

He says : “ I work more than 12 hours a day and I go back to the shelter completely  drained trying to gather my strength for another day, sometimes employers force us to work until midnight and if we refuse we pay penalty or get dismissed from work, and compensation for the additional hours do not exceed $ 70 per month .

Suleiman adds  “We are working without safety tools we are exposed to death all the time, and in the event of an accident no one take care of us”. He elaborates “last year my friend’s hand amputated while he was at work as he was fixing a truck, but he was not compensated, but dismissed and he was only hospitalized”.

Mamadou and Suleiman are among hundreds of thousands of African refugees in Algeria who face same conditions and most of them get deported towards their countries in a humiliating way after being exploited in farced labour.

Ten of thousands of African refugees under disguised slavery in Algeria

The incident of the African worker death in a rockslide inside a building in Sidi Yahya in Hydra Municipality in January brought back the debate about hiring Africans phenomenon by Algerian employers without insurance. The Algerian League for Human Rights sounded the alarm about the exploitation of African refugees’ phenomenon by Algerians, Chinese, and Turkish employers in the field of public works without social security and very low wages.

More than 10 thousand African workers exposed to the worst forms of exploitation in the work place in the absence of labour inspectors according to a statement issued by the league.

The Algerian League for Human Rights called on the Ministry of Labour to increase field inspections across the country, especially in the construction and public works and irrigation sectors - which employ about 30 thousand workers of African refugees.

On the other hand, one of the unionist at the general independent confederation of workers in Algeria confirmed that employers and contractors and owners of the largest farms and agricultural investors exploit displaced people and refugees from African in projects without compelling to international or domestic laws, especially the 90/11 law on the employment relationship.

Yamina Maghraoui Confirmed in a statement that all refugee workers are being exploited in the construction sector as they work without permission from the Social Security. 2016 witnessed more than 300 victims exposed to fatal work accidents. One of  African worker amputated his leg after a sharp object  fell on him in his work place located in Blida province, he was hospitalized then deported to his homeland and this incident is the highest degree of the violations suffered by African refugees in Algeria.

Maghraoui added that there are many refugees who are deprived even from their monthly salaries and are subjected to extortion by employers because of their status, which is considered illegal in Algerian laws Although they are refugees and have special laws to guarantee their full rights in accordance with international conventions ratified by Algeria. However, trade unionists at the independent confederation of workers in Algeria were prevented from visiting camps and solidarity with refugees and also prevented from gathering  information about their situation, which is getting worse because of the unspeakable deportation campaign led by the Algerian authorities since last November.

She also confirmed that refugees are being attacked at night and exposed to intimidation, they gather them in trucks, and buses in a way that  separates family members, sometimes mothers get deported without their children.

On the other hand, The Algerian League for Human Rights said that they submitted a report to the Algerian Ministry of Labour on 16th January 2016 about the status of workers from African migrants, but nothing has changed. The league tried to find out how many special licenses in 2016 and 2015 were granted to employers to hire Africans in order to compare them with the real number in the field  but all attempts failed, arguing that the real figures for the year 2015 and 2016 are still under analysis at Ministry of Labour.

In the same report, the league confirmed that the number of African workers in Algeria was 140 thousand workers from 125 different foreign nationality and more than 10 thousand workers were working under slavery and forced labuor.

These terrifying figures have made most trade unions and human rights organizations call on the Ministry of Labour to open an in-depth investigation into the «ugly exploitation of African migrants». Saying that these Africans are playing a beneficial role to Algeria as they have become the most appropriate alternative in construction and irrigation, roads and agriculture sectors. Because of low wages that do not exceed 50 percent of the baseband guaranteed wage in Algeria and the lack of protection according to reports from employers organizations .  Politicians and trade unionists agree that these Africans deserve respect and reward as they often leave their families and travel long distances until they reach Algeria, fleeing from the ravages of war and poverty.

Labor inspectors in Algeria and its role in the light of these violations

Algerian law explicitly states that the functions of the inspector are monitoring the application of labour standards and the law authorized them broad powers to monitor the factories and facilities and other places of work and punish anyone violating the law and compel them to apply the law.

Secretary-General of the independent National Union of public administration users, Ms. Naseerah Ghazlan, confirmed that labour inspectors tasks  changed as it turned to complaint boxes  and for the end of the year reports which are sent to the Ministry of Labour. Inspectors do not do their duties as stated by law, they do not punish employers who violate the national and international legislations or check on the conditions of workers. she says that this confirms that the government is involved in the enslavement of refugees in favor of employers who have found this vulnerable group a good opportunity to raise their profits