“My children will never meet their grandparents … Too old and sick”, Karim lets go, resigned. Two years have passed since his last visit to his family, not far from Oran. In the meantime, Algeria closed its borders on March 17, 2020, due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Karim was born in France and lives in Lorraine. At 39, he works in a factory and, despite the scarcity of holidays, he needs to join his family several times a year.
On May 16, when the Algerian government announced the resumption of commercial flights for holders of a passport from the country under certain conditions from 1er June, the young father had a bit of hope. A feeling of short-lived upon learning that only two weekly flights were available. According to Karim, the figure has since risen to ten, a frequency still far from the usual 250 trips. About 800,000 Algerians live in France, according to INSEE; and, for thousands of them, sleepless nights spent refreshing the pages of airlines looking for a ticket follow one after another.
The price doubled
For a certain number, their life is in Algeria. Behind their computers, they wait for the opening of the ticket office, never announced in advance, so as not to miss flights from Paris or Marseille, stormed in less than fifteen minutes. Tickets that can be booked only a few days before takeoff, as airlines receive flight authorizations from the Algerian government usually a week before departure.
Air Algeria’s call centers are saturated and its physical agencies in Paris and Marseille have been closed since May 31 for “security reasons”. SOn social networks, thousands of Algerians stranded in France then exchange advice. The main Facebook group has 25,000 people. “Do not book tickets in advance, although they are available on the companies’ websites, they do not correspond to authorized flights”, repeat Internet users.
If finding a ticket is not easy, it is still necessary to succeed in raising the requested sum. Their price has doubled from the usual rate. Nearly 700 euros for a one-way ticket to which must be added for the vast majority of travelers about 200 euros, the price of five hotel nights to spend confined. Only students and the elderly with low incomes are exempt from these housing costs.
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