Two major external migratory movements have reshaped the settlement
pattern since World War II: the abrupt departure of most of the
European colonists in 1962 and 1963 and the flow of Algerian workers
to the European continent--chiefly to France. In 1945 Algerian
workers and their families in France numbered about 350,000, and
in 1964 they numbered an estimated 500,000. By the early 1980s,
they totaled 800,000, according to official French figures. About
350,000 were male workers, the remainder being women and children
under seventeen years of age. Many were from the Kabylie, a poor
agricultural region that suffered severely during the War of Independence.
In addition to these migrants, 400,000 harkis (Algerians
who served with the French army in the War of Independence) resided
permanently in France, mostly in the south.
In 1968 the Algerian and French governments set a quota on migrants
of 35,000 per year, which was reduced to 25,000 in 1971. Although
Algeria suspended all migration to France in 1973, an estimated
7,000 Algerians nonetheless continued to migrate illegally each
year at the end of the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, both France and
Algeria offered incentives to migrants to return home, one of
them being guaranteed housing. Although figures were hard to obtain,
it appeared that few responded to these gestures.
The economic crisis in Europe in the aftermath of the Arab oil
embargo of 1973 led to a recession that affected Algerians as
well as other North Africans working in Europe, primarily in France.
Because of rising unemployment, French trade unions began to agitate
against migrant workers, claiming that they took jobs from French
men and women. Governments in France and other European countries
instituted new policies to control migration from North Africa
and other parts of the developing world.
The impact of those new policies had a paradoxical effect on
Algerian and other North African migrants in France. They had
been quite content until then to move back and forth between France
and their homeland, never quite settling in France, and generally
keeping their families in Algeria, Tunisia, or Morocco. After
the new policies were instituted, migrants feared that they might
never be able to return to France if they went home to visit their
families. Rather than risk losing their residence abroad, many
migrants opted to bring their families to Europe and set up more
permanent forms of residence there.
French trade unions reacted by formulating policies that restricted
the rights of migrant workers even more than before. By 1980 Algerians
and other North African workers had lost their union rights and
benefits, and by 1984 the unions that had sprung up to represent
the migrants were no longer insisting that they have the same
economic and social rights as the indigenous work force. Whereas
in 1974 French trade union resolutions stated that migration had
to be contained, a decade later they had taken the position that
migration had to be stopped.
To make matters worse, Algerians and other migrants from the
Maghrib were always perceived as migrant workers and so were rarely
naturalized in France. The majority, therefore, in the early 1990s
had no voice in the French political system and did not represent
a political force or even an interest group that could exert pressure
to defend its rights. Their visibility and vulnerability, however,
made them an easy target for those who wished to find scapegoats
for the problems ailing European economies.
Data as of December 1993