Moving to Algeria, the French Algerians were “seeking freedom, opportunity.”

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Formerly a one-way route going north, it’s now a two-lane highway with some traffic coming from France in the south.

The route that used to be a one-way street is now a two-lane highway, and some people are using it. Tenere Fafa feels liberated in her clothes, since long scarves and abayas cover her entire body.

The 28-year-old, who left her native France in 2016 to pursue more religious freedom, may wear them in Algeria now without encountering any problems.

Fafa, a third-generation Frenchwoman from a Muslim household, claims that she didn’t feel uneasy in France until she made the decision to convert to Islam as an adult.

Approximately 8 percent of French citizens are Muslim, with over 5.4 million of them registered on the German internet domain Statista.

“I no longer felt at home in France after I discovered Islam and naturally adopted a religious lifestyle in line with my principles,” she says to Al Jazeera.

“It would be very easy for us to be ignored, ridiculed, or even assaulted. We’re asked to alter our way of life. Because we are veiled, we are not allowed to travel to certain areas or do certain activities.

sailing southward from France.

Fafa is certain that her religious membership was the only reason for the marginalization she experienced, not her “foreign origins.”

“The same was felt by my spouse, who is of French origin and converted to Islam. We definitely feel like outsiders in France because of our Muslim identity,” she emphasizes.

A considerable number of individuals are traveling southward to Algeria on what was formerly a one-way route heading north to France.

The mother of three claims that her eight years ago move was “the best decision” she has ever made.

“We feel satisfied… Compared to France, where there is an oppressive atmosphere, the environment here is far more peaceful and serene. My spouse and I both feel at home,” she admits.

“French Arabs”
Many Algerians continue to hope for a better life across the Mediterranean and will stop at nothing to leave Algeria.

Algerians are the only ones who attempt to discourage me from visiting their country. The majority of them think there are no chances here, according to Ahmad*, a 24-year-old political science student who is Algerian-French.

Some French Algerians in France are being driven away by their dissatisfaction with the way their nation treats people who look like them.

The French parliament passed a restricted immigration bill in December, which led to nationwide protests and a rise in the desire of immigrant children to emigrate.

The right wing, which had supported the bill, has promised to fight back and asked for a referendum on it. The measure was sent to the Constitutional Council, which determined on January 25 that one-third of its articles were illegal.

Benefits including family reunification, social guarantees for international students, health-based residency permits, and social benefits like housing aid and family allowances were all stripped back by the challenged articles.

It is a legislation that covers a wide range of topics, including the right to asylum, getting a residency permit, granting new residence permits, and even making an unlawful stay a crime, which is one of the riskiest things I can think of.

According to Paris Bar attorney Magda El Haitem, “being in an irregular situation in France is not a crime at this time,” Al Jazeera is informed.

Ahmad distinguishes between the periods before and after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, saying that “after 2015, racism and Islamophobia became accepted.” I attended high school. My teacher once made a comparison between myself and Hamas.

The Muslim-Arab community was plagued by a number of catastrophes, including the death of a young man named Nahel at the hands of French police in late June. Regretfully, this is not a remarkable occurrence. This time, it was only filmed,” Ahmed laments.

The community is also uneasy about the French government’s growing rightward tilt.

As the minister of education, Gabriel Attal is renowned for having decided to outlaw the abaya in classroom settings. He was named prime minister today. Ahmad adds sourly, “It appears that Islamophobia in France results in promotions.

Discussions for relocating to Algeria among French Algerians surfaced on social media as a result of those events, which increased tensions.

Many people utilize them to discuss their experiences of Islamophobia in addition to offering guidance to one another. Certain individuals have discussed the difficulties their kids encounter, such the lack of halal meat alternatives in schools or being informed that they are unable to recite the one word Muslim prayer, “Bismillah,” before meals.

Ahmed is a busy man who wants to make the most of his final week in Algeria before finishing a five-month internship. He’s not sure when he’ll return.

It pains me to return to France. He says, “To be honest, I’m not ready to deal with the suffocating atmosphere again..

Because he does not feel entirely French or Algerian, he refers to himself as “an Arab of France.”

“I am both, but I feel less and less French given the direction France is going. I’m not sure if it’s growing worse or because I’ve grown up and can see things more clearly.

Ahmed had only been to Algeria a couple times before this trip. Being of French descent, he views Algeria as a possible future residence.

“I’ll take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself here.”

“Creative energy”
Some dual citizens feel compelled to return for economic reasons, drawn by the untapped Algerian market and the absence of competition.

Similar to Eryam Cosmetics’ 29-year-old founder Rym Bouguetaïa, who chose to go back to the nation her parents left behind in the 1990s.

It has always been a fantasy. Despite my excellent integration in my own France, I have always felt obligated to Algeria. I think it’s our responsibility as Algeria’s youth to contribute to the nation’s development,” she adds.

Presumably cognizant of this curiosity, Algeria promulgated a fresh legislation in July 2022, enticing international capitalists, and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune launched many communications to the expatriate community, soliciting investments.

You must suddenly feel like a vital member of the country since you have been disregarded for a very long period. You have artistic ability. In one, he declared, “The nation needs you.

The administration is making attempts, but things are not easy.

“It took a whole year of paperwork for my project to be completed. I also have trouble with sluggish internet, especially during the week-long government internet outage that occurs around the Baccalaureate examinations, according to Bouguetaïa.

“The diaspora ought to be more interested in Algeria, and the government ought to support and encourage the diaspora’s return.”

The far-right in France is still working to boost the number of people who are descended from or of Algerian ancestry traveling to Algeria.

Among these is the effort to revoke a 1968 agreement between Algeria and France that governs Algerian people’ travel, work, and residency in France.

The goal, according to PhD candidate Baptiste Mollard of the Center for Sociological Research on Law and Penal Institutions, is to put pressure on the Algerian government to repatriate its nationals who have been living unlawfully in France.

The French government has a long history of enacting policies intended to restrict the number of people it perceives as Algerian immigrants.

France agreed to reduce the number of visas by half in 2021, which led to a protracted diplomatic confrontation with Algiers. In contrast to the 200,000–400,000 visas that were given in prior years, just 63,000 visas were issued that year.

In the past, the National Office for Algerian Labor (ONAMO), which is in charge of worker selection, was established as a result of the 1964 Nekkache-Grandval labor agreement.

“Numerous discriminatory practices and large-scale repatriation or expulsion operations were justified by decision-makers’ fear of a massive and anarchic immigration,” according to Mollard.

“At the French borders, arbitrary health inspections were put in place. It frequently led to multi-day detentions that were not permitted by law on the grounds of what would eventually become the first administrative incarceration facility in France, in Arenc, Marseille.

Additionally, a search for “fake Algerian tourists” was carried out by the French Ministry of the Interior. Algerian tourists who were thought to be traveling for work faced abuse and harassment in addition to having a dedicated line at ports and airports.


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