International flights will resume on June 1 after a fourteen-month suspension, but the procedures for entering Algerian territory are very restrictive.
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Brahim Djellouadji’s phone keeps ringing. A priori, the sign that business is resuming for the president of the travel agency Méditerranée Events et Travels, in Marseille, while the Algerian authorities have just announced the “partial” reopening of air borders on June 1 after having closed them. on March 17, 2020 to stem the spread of Covid-19.
However, the tour operator does not know what to answer to his customers whom he says “distraught”. “I especially try to comfort them,” admits Mr. Djellouadji. The euphoria quickly passed. The diaspora is really disappointed, in shock. “
Despite the reopening, the situation is far from returning to normal. The authorities, and in particular the Algerian ambassador to France, Mohamed Antar Daoud, initially assured that there would be five flights per day from Paris, Lyon and Marseille to Algiers, Oran and Constantine . Then the government indicated that only three flights per week would be operated from Paris and Marseille.
The disappointment is all the greater as the modalities for entering Algerian territory are very restrictive. It will be necessary to present a negative PCR test of less than 36 hours and to respect a compulsory quarantine of five days “with a permanent medical check” in a hotel that the passenger will have to pay before boarding. A test must also be carried out at the end of confinement and, in the event of a positive result, the five-day isolation is renewed.
“A real fed up”
All passengers – even vaccinated – are subject to these guidelines. “The approach is so dissuasive that it amounts to a closure. I do not understand the reasons for this double turn. We are powerless, ”laments Brahim Djellouadji.
Since March 2020, the tour operator has lost 90% of its turnover. Likewise, Marseille-Provence airport went from 744,516 passengers between Marseille and Algeria in 2019 to “almost nothing, except a few repatriation flights” in 2020, we told headquarters. of the site.
“The closure has distanced the two countries, regrets Nazim Sini, regional delegate of the Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in France (CACI), based in Marseille. Since the beginning of the year, there has been a real fed up with the diaspora. “
Several million Algerians abroad have had to deal with the closure of borders and the suspension of commercial flights and maritime links which have lasted for fourteen months. The authorities organized, often in chaos, repatriation flights for their nationals, subject to conditions (death, a parent whose prognosis is vital, a legal problem, etc.).
But the latter were suspended on March 1 due to the appearance of the English variant at the end of February in Algeria. To get around these difficulties, some Algerians – holders of French passports – have chosen to cross their country’s border illegally from Tunisia.
Since March 2020, many nationals have remained stranded abroad, especially in France, to the point of sometimes experiencing dramatic situations. Without families and without income, some even ended up on the streets. It remains difficult to know how many Algerians are still stuck in Europe without being able to reach the other side of the Mediterranean as the authorities communicate little on this subject.
During these long months, some families were unable to attend the funeral of a loved one because they could not get to the country. “Many were waiting to return to Algeria to mourn,” notes Badis Khenissa. There is great psychological distress. The forties, candidate for the next Algerian legislative elections of June 12 for the north of France, fears an explosion in ticket prices. “I think that we will have to make money pots to help the most disadvantaged”, he indicates.
In Algeria too, the expectation of being able to travel again is considerable. As with Kaïs, 28 years old, an inhabitant of Constantine engaged to a Frenchwoman “of stock”, he specifies. The young man was unable to benefit from the short-stay visa to find her in the Paris region: the closure of the Algerian borders did not make it possible to guarantee his return to his country, the French consulate in Algiers notified him.
“Very late on vaccination”
It has been over a year since he saw his fiancée and their marriage procedures are blocked on both sides of the Mediterranean. And the government’s latest announcements do not give it much hope of a quick fix.
For multiple Algerian families separated from their loved ones for at least fifteen months, this partial opening causes frustration. As for travel professionals, they feel left out. “For us there is no opening to date, because it is Air Algeria which sells its tickets and markets its flights”, indicates Hamza Baba Aïssa, director of the Gouraya Tours tourism agency based in Bejaïa, in the ‘is.
Maintaining the closure of sea and land borders will also prevent the more than two million Algerians who usually spend the summer season in Tunisia from traveling to the neighboring country.
According to several doctors, the measures announced are certainly draconian but legitimate. “Yes, it’s not enough, but it’s a cautious opening. Algeria owed its salvation to the fact that the country was confined. And we see that the numbers are stable [entre 200 et 300 cas quotidiens, selon les données officielles, pour près de 3 500 morts depuis le début de la pandémie] although Algerians behave differently in terms of respect for sanitary rules, ”remarks Dr Mohamed Bekkat Berkani. The president of the National Council of the Order of Physicians recalls that the country “is far behind on vaccination”. No figures have been made public.
However, the measures taken by the government are not frozen in time. Their evolution will depend on the health situation in Algeria and in the countries of origin, explained in the Algerian press, several professors of medicine involved in the fight against the epidemic.
Thus, some want to believe that the government will release ballast very quickly by opening up the country further. For Nazim Sini, “depriving Algerians abroad of Algeria for a second summer in a row is not tenable”.