African migrants report torture and slavery in Algeria

Dozens of African migrants who have been to Algeria are reporting that they were sold into forced labour as slaves, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Algeria has become a popular gateway to the Mediterranean since the route through Libya became more dangerous and difficult. The Thomson Reuters Foundation reported hearing the stories of forced labour and slavery from an international charity and a local association in Agadez, Niger’s main migrant transit hub, and via telephone interviews with two victims.

Ousmane Bah, a 21-year-old from Guinea, said he was sold twice in Algeria by unknown captors and forced to work in construction. “They took our passports. They hit us. We didn’t eat. We didn’t drink,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I was a slave for six months.”

Ogounidje Tange Mazu, from Togo said he slept in a sheep pen and suffered beatings if an animal got sick or dirty. “They would bring out machetes and I would get on my knees and apologise and they would let it go,” he said.

Since September last year, there have been reports of a surge in anti-migrant sentiment in Algeria with thousands of African migrants expelled and abandoned in the desert on the southern border with Niger.

An RFI report from February accused the country of randomly rounding and expelling thousands of African forcibly, and humiliating them.

According to an Amnesty International report released late last year, Algerian authorities were making arrests on the basis of racial profiling as they were not seeking to ascertain whether the migrants had the right to stay in the country. Some of those arrested and deported were undocumented migrants, while others had valid visas.

According to the migrants, it is not unusual for the Algerian authorities to drop them as much as 30 kilometres from the border, in 45-degree Celsius heat, often without water.

In May the U.N. Human Rights Office condemned Algeria saying the country had carried out at least six mass expulsions of migrants in March and April. However, the Algerian government rejected the reports saying that it is doing what is necessary to ensure the safety of its citizens and believes UN agencies and African nations should help it tackle the issue.

“A surge of migration is invading the south of Algeria,” Hassen Kacimi, a senior official at Algeria’s Interior Ministry said in May.

“Algeria is not responsible for the population of other states,” said he added.

In 2016, the IOM surveyed about 6,300 migrants in Niger, most of whom had returned from Algeria and Libya. Sixty-five per cent of those who had lived in Algeria said they had experienced violence and abuse, compared to 61 per cent in Libya, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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.

TMP – 13/07/2018

Photo credit: IOM 2016/ Amanda NERO. Photo caption: A convoy of returnees from Algeria departing from an IOM transit centre in Agadez.