France's junior minister for veterans' affairs has raised the idea of working on a foundation for harkis, the Algerian Muslims who fought for the French armed forces during the Algerian war of independence, and whose family members and descendants were forced to live in squalid conditions when they came to France.
Speaking on the annual day of recognition for Harkis, Patricia Mirallès said Monday that she would task the general inspectorate of the French Armed Forces with creating a plan for a foundation for the Algerian soldiers who were essentially abandoned once they were transferred to France after Algeria's independence - often left in transit camps to live in terrible conditions.
“I decided to embrace this idea” that comes from several Harki rights advocacy groups, Mirallès said Monday at the Invalides in Paris.
“It's a consideration that deserves to be done with nuance and in depth,” she said.
A foundation would allow for the history of the harkis, and their contribution to the French army, to be better known in France.
Associations have long pushed for recognition, and reparations, and President Emmanuel Macron, who has committed to increasing the recognition, asked for forgiveness, in the name of France, in 2021.
In 2022, a law promoting the recognition of the importance of harkis to the state came into effect, which put into place a national commission on reparations, with a 300 million euro budget.
Mirallès said more than 10,000 requests have since been granted an average of 8,500 euros each.
But some are not satisfied with the programme.
The amount of money is not enough to compensate the suffering, he said, and it ends up just being “charity”.
Jean-Marie Bockel, president of the reparations committee, recognises the amounts of money paid out are low, but he told RFI the idea is to offer “reparations of principles”.
“What I hear – and I say it myself – is that this is irreparable,” he said, adding that this would be presented in future reports to the commission.
Harkis also deplore the stigma attached to their community, explains Djiemila Aïwaz, of a group of women descendants of harkis, the Angry women.
“Some people tell us, 'Go home, you do not belong here',” she told RFI. “They insult us, and the state does nothing about it. We have asked for sanctions against this,” but nothing has come of it.
Mirallès, who according to her biography on the Defense ministry website is herself the daughter of people who were repatriated from Algeria, reiterated on Monday that the state recognizes the harkis “distress and difficulties” they faced.