The United Nations has criticised Algeria for expelling sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, mostly coming from Mali, Cameroon and Nigeria.
After Algeria had requested help from the UN to support a huge influx of migrants, the UN on Tuesday urged the Algerian authorities to stop expelling such migrants.
UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a regular UN briefing in Geneva that deportations and expulsions have increased since the second half of 2017, and a UN human rights team went to Niger to investigate this month.
“What they heard was that Algerian authorities frequently carry out mass round-ups of sub-Saharan African migrants in various parts of the country,” Shamdasani said.
According to the UN team’s investigation, only one out of 25 migrants had her passport checked before being expelled.
Most of them had been told to put thumbprints on Arabic documents they could not read.
The migrants told the UN team they were not told why they were being detained and were not allowed to retrieve their belongings, passports or money before being expelled.
“Some were taken straight to Niger while others were held in military bases in inhuman and degrading conditions, before being taken south,” the UN team said citing migrants’ statements.
Shamdasani added that some of the migrants were crammed into big trucks to be transferred to the Nigerien border where they were abandoned and left to walk hours in the desert heat to cross the border into Niger.
Hassen Kacimi, a senior official at Algeria’s interior ministry, told Reuters on Saturday that Algeria had called for help from the international community, but the UN had done little to assist the migrants.
Kacimi stated that it is Algeria that “rescues the migrants abandoned in the desert by offering humanitarian aid”.
“Algeria is not responsible for the population of other states,” Kacimi said. “So whoever wants to cry over the outgoing migrants just (has) to put their hand in their pocket.”
Algeria, which shares borders with Mali and Niger, spent $20m in the past three years handling an influx of illegal migrants from the Sahel region fleeing war, insecurity or poverty.
Kacimi criticised the lack of assistance from UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), other African states and The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in tackling this issue.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman, said the UN migration agency, IOM, had rescued about 3,000 migrants in the area in the past four months, including some trying to get into Algeria.
Many migrants said they were dropped as far as 30km from the border in 45C heat, often without water and carrying children.
IOM said it provided shelter for up to 3,500 of the displaced in Niger.
“Migrants were seen losing their lives, often unrecorded or unrecognised in the sand dunes,” Millman said.