Migrants stranded in the desert after expulsion by Algeria


Algeria police. Photo, supplied

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – ALGERIA’S expulsion of thousands of individuals has augmented North Africa’s notoriety as a hostile zone for migrants.

Algeria, the continent’s largest country by size, has since January expelled at least 7 700 exiled people of sub-Saharan.

They are stranded in the desert after moving south to the border with Niger, the West African country.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has disclosed the figures, highlighting that those expelled are of sub-Saharan origin. They are mainly from Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The largest surge is of 5 000 people that have arrived on foot in the desert town Assamaka and are currently on their own, in inhumane living conditions.

Local and international humanitarian organisations lack the resources and capacity to provide vital assistance to the vulnerable people in Assamaka, as well as in Arlit and Agadez, the other Nigerien (not to be confused with Nigerian) towns.

Doctors of the World (DotW) has warned of the growing humanitarian needs of the migrants in the desert. With two-thirds of Niger lying within the Sahara Desert, the country is one of the hottest in the world.

DotW disclosed how its medical teams who provide healthcare in the Agadez area met men, women and children, in particular unaccompanied minors, who have sometimes walked for miles, in extreme conditions, under temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.

“These people are hungry and dehydrated,” said Dr Toupou Lancinet, the general coordinator of DotW in Niger.

“They need food, clean water, health care and access to sanitation facilities. Their psychological distress is extreme.”

Lancinet said the affected individuals had sometimes been brutalised during the journey, and needed to have contact with their loved ones.

“The humanitarian situation is terribly concerning,” he decried.

DotW has called on the European Union to review its migration policies in order to ensure the protection of exiled people, in accordance with human rights, international law and humanitarian principles.

The organisation also called for an end to the arrests and deportations of migrants and asylum seekers from Algeria to Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is called upon to ensure the safety and protection of people of sub-Saharan origin who are stranded in Niger despite having expressed their desire to return to their countries.

Algeria is the latest country in North Africa coming across as hostile to sub-Saharan migrants.

In recent weeks, authorities in Tunisia have been implicated in the abuse of foreign nationals stranded in the country, some enroute to Europe via dangerous vessels in the Mediterranean.

Libya has over the years been denounced for its ill-treatment of migrants.

Libya and Tunisia are accused of detaining the foreign nationals in inhumane condition.

– CAJ News

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