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France: parliament discusses bill for 'apology' for Algerian fighters

Brothers and sisters of the Dargaid family search their brothers names on the stele of the Harkis cemetery at The Rivesaltes Camp in Rivesaltes, southern France, on August 7, 2020 [LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images]
Brothers and sisters of the Dargaid family search their brothers names on the stele of the Harkis cemetery at The Rivesaltes Camp in Rivesaltes, southern France, on August 7, 2020 [LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images]

Sixty years after the end of the Algerian War of Independence, the National Assembly in France will tomorrow debate a bill regarding an "apology" for the Algerians who fought alongside the French army and experienced a "tragedy" in France when the war ended. President Emmanuel Macron mentioned this in a speech on 20 September in the presence of representatives of the Harkis.

The move is a test of France's conscience in the face of the "tragedy". Macron wants to recognise the "debt" owed to the Harkis and their families who lived in "inappropriate conditions" in France. It is an unprecedented move, as the Algerian war is still a difficult issue in both countries.

The bill will acknowledge the services rendered in Algeria by former members of the support formations that served France only to be abandoned following Algeria's independence. Up to 200,000 Harkis were recruited as auxiliaries between 1954 and 1962, almost half of whom went to live in France with their families. Once there, they were allocated to what one minister has called "slum camps" built especially for them. If the bill is passed by parliament, the families will receive compensation, for which €50 million ($56.55 million) has been allocated.

Not surprisingly, politicians from all parties have commented, not all of them favourably. Those on the left tend to support the proposal and will vote for the bill, while those on the far right mocked Macron's "electoral generosity". The president seeks re-election next year.

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