Algeria forcibly expelling migrants and abandoning them in the desert

TMP – 26/02/2018
Photo credit: IOM/Amanda Nero 2016/ Nigerian returnees from Algeria at an IOM transit centre in Agadez, Niger.

Algeria is rounding up and forcibly expelling sub-Saharan African migrants and leaving them in the desert on its border with Niger, according to Radio France International (RFI) and Amnesty International.

The migrants are rounded up at night, thrown in detention centres around the capital, Algiers, and later loaded on army trucks and abandoned in the desert between Tamanrasset in Algeria and Arlit in Niger. Migrants then have to walk for hours or even days in harsh conditions hoping to be rescued.

IOM, the UN migration agency, confirmed that it has saved up to 1000 migrants abandoned in the Nigerien desert by Algerian authorities.
According to an Amnesty International report released in October last year, a new wave of arrests started on 22 September when Algerian police and gendarmes began arbitrarily detaining sub-Saharan migrants in Algiers and neighbouring suburbs. The report indicated that the authorities did not seek to ascertain whether the migrants had the right to stay in the country, either by checking their passports or other documents. Some of those arrested and deported were undocumented migrants, while others had valid visas.

“There can be no justification for rounding up and forcibly deporting hundreds of people based on the colour of their skin or their assumed country of origin – a blatant case of mass racial profiling,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.

Between January and February of this year, two to three thousand migrants from Central and West Africa are said to have been forcibly expelled from Algerian territory. Those expelled include migrants who have lived and worked for years in Algeria, pregnant women, families with newborn babies, and unaccompanied children.

Niger has repeatedly protested the inhumane treatment suffered by its nationals in Algeria, while civil society associations in Guinea, Gabon and Niger have been urging the African Union to put the issue on the agenda.
According to the RFI report, Algeria is preparing to deport an additional 3000 migrants in the near future.