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Harragas (from Arabic حراقة, ḥarrāga, ḥarrāg, "those who burn" (the frontier)) are North African migrants who attempt to illegally immigrate to Europe or to European-controlled islands in makeshift boats.[1] The word Harraga (in ar: حراقة), is from Algerian Arabic, designating "those who burn.", meaning those who burn their ID-papers and seek their fortune as asylumseekers in Europe. The Harrga is the action of "burning the borders and the sea."

On the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan harragas typically hope to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in order to reach Spain, specifically the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Ceuta[1] and Melilla.[1] Additionally, harragas also sometimes manage to complete the voyage from Africa to the island nation of Malta,[2] or the Italian island of Lampedusa.[1] From here they often go on to emigrate to other regions of Europe.[2]

On the Atlantic coast of North Africa, Mauritanian and Senegalese harragas set off in hope of reaching the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands in small, flat-bottomed boats referred to in Spanish as "patera",[3] or in rigid or inflatable rafts, (such as "Zodiac" rafts),[3] or even paddle boats.[3] Obviously, boats such as these are not designed for ocean crossings and the death rates for harragas are very high. The motivations for undertaking this extremely risky act are twofold: profound economic poverty and extreme political repression, both widespread throughout North Africa.[1]


Algerian film director Moussa Haddad[fr] started shooting a film entitled Harraga Blues February 6, 2011.[4] The project is currently still in production.[4]



  1. ^ a b c d e fr:Harraga, Retrieved 10 February 2011[better source needed]
  2. ^ a b "Maghreb nationals among harragas caught in Malta". United States Africa Command. 2009-02-02. Retrieved 10 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c es:Patera, Retrieved 10 February 2011[better source needed]
  4. ^ a b "Movie: Director Moussa Haddad starts shooting Harraga Blues". 06-02-2011. El Moujahid. Retrieved 10 February 2011.