Border Security

Algeria & Contraband: June Brief

This brief highlights contraband seizures reported in June by Algeria's Ministry of Defense.


Algeria seized slightly over 4,690 kilograms of kif (cannabis resin) in June. Fifty-six percent of seizures (2,665.45 kg) occurred along the north-western border with Morocco, primarily in the wilaya of Tlemcen. Most seizures in this zone were medium sized (100-300 kg). In contrast, 26% of the month's seizure volume came from one extremely large interdiction in Béni‐Ounif, in the central-western wilaya of Béchar. Only 14% of the month's kif seizures took place away from the Moroccan border zone--most of these occurred in the eastern wilayas of Ghardaïa and Biskra, underscoring the continued salience of non-coastal drug smuggling routes from Morocco to Libya.

A small number of psychotropic pills (1,780) were also seized in Biskra in June, though by far the largest seizure of psychotropics (30,100 pills) occurred near the central southern city of In Salah on 09 June.


No significant weapons or ammunition seizures were made in June.


Compared to 2016, Algerian clandestine migration to Europe in 2017 has spiked sharply. Between January and June 2016, Algerian authorities reported the interdiction of 388 Algerian clandestine migrants on and close to the country's littoral. Over the same period in 2017, 1,317 Algerian migrants were interdicted, including 440 in June alone. In 70% of cases, June's reporting data was not specific enough to analyze where the migrants were departing from. In the minority of cases where the data was clear it showed that 52% of migrants were caught in the west, departing for Spain, 14% were caught in the country's center, likely departing for Spain, and 32% were caught in the east, departing for Italy, mainly Sardinia.

In addition to Algerian migrants, the Army and Gendarmerie detained 381 non-Algerian migrants. This number is elevated slightly from June 2016, when 226 migrants were arrested. In total, 3,941 non-Algerian migrants have been detained to date in 2017, versus 3,576 in 2016.

Subsidized Commodities


Between 01 and 30 June, the Algerian Army, Gendarmerie, and Customs seized 74,096 liters of contraband petrol. Fifty percent of interdictions, 37,066 liters, occurred in the Wilayas of Souk‐ Ahras, Tébessa, and El‐Taref on the Tunisian border. Algeria's southern border zone abutting Mali and Niger accounted for another sixteen percent of seizures (12,520 liters). Finally, the border with Morocco, once the epicenter of the contraband trade in petrol, accounted for only two seizures in June, totaling 7,680 liters. Information on the origin of twenty-two percent of June petrol seizures was unclear or involved mixed reporting.


Three seizures of contraband tobacco were made in June. Two occurred in Tlemcen, on the Moroccan border, involving 9,500 cigarettes and 13,600 units of tobacco. The final interdiction occurred in the east, involving Algerian forces from Biskra and El Oued. Likely intended for the Libyan market, the shipment involved 10,560 kg of tobacco.


In June, 92.5% of contraband food seizures were made along Algeria's southern borders with Mali and Niger. In all a total of 84,100 kg of contraband food was interdicted, along with 30,900 liters of olive oil and 2,308 beverages. While olive oil smuggling was concentrated along the southern border, seizures of contraband beverages were exclusively made on the Moroccan frontier.


A number of additional types of goods were seized in Algeria during June. Gold mining tools and implements were the most common, including jackhammers, electric generators, and metal detectors. Most of these seizures occurred on or close to Algeria's border with Niger, where a significant artisanal gold rush is ongoing. In addition, a 3,096 bottles of contraband cosmetics were uncovered in El Oued, an entrepôt for both Libya and Tunisia bound smuggling. Finally, in the north-east, in El-Taref, over nine kilograms of illegal coral was interdicted.

At the edge: Trends and routes of North African clandestine migrants

From The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. The Publication Can be Accessed Here.

Jointly with the Institute for Security Studies, the Global Initiative published At the edge (Nov 2016) as part of a research project on human smuggling from Africa to Europe, funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF). Our research team sat down with smugglers themselves in Libya, Turkey, in the Sahel and in Sub-Saharan Africa to understand who are the smugglers behind Europe’s migration crisis, to understand how they operate, what drew them into the trade, and how they are responding to international community efforts to end illicit migration.

In 2015, over 16,000 Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans were caught while attempting to migrate to Europe covertly. Though North Africans are a relatively small portion of the masses of clandestine migrants, they are a critical group to understand. They are the innovators and early adaptors of new methods and routes for migrant smuggling, such as their pioneering in the 1990s and 2000s of the routes across the Mediterranean that now fuel Europe’s migration crisis. Understanding how and why North Africans migrate, the routes they use, and how these are changing, offers insights into how clandestine migration methods and routes in general may shift in the coming years. In shaping better responses to actual dynamics, it is important for countries to proactively address the chronic conditions that drive forced migration before they generate social instability.