UN criticizes Algeria for mass deportations of migrants

A migrant from Niger carries her child near a fruit market in the Algerian town of Boufarik. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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UN criticizes Algeria for mass deportations of migrants

GENEVA/ALGIERS: The United Nations on Tuesday urged Algeria to stop rounding up and expelling sub-Saharan migrants, highlighting an influx of immigrants from Mali and Niger that Algeria says it needs UN help to address.
Hassen Kacimi, a senior official at Algeria’s Interior Ministry, told Reuters on Saturday that Algeria had called for help from the international community, while the United Nations had done little to save the migrants.
UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a regular UN briefing in Geneva that deportations and expulsions have increased markedly 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.
Of 25 migrants interviewed by the UN team, only one had had her passport checked before being expelled. Most had been told to put thumbprints on Arabic documents they could not read.
Most were not told why they were being detained and were not allowed to pick up their belongings, passports or money before being expelled. Some were taken straight to Niger, others were held in military bases, in inhuman and degrading conditions, before being taken south.
“(Some) are crammed into big trucks to be transferred to the Nigerien border where they are abandoned and left to walk hours in the desert heat to cross the border into Niger,” she said.
Algeria says it faces a huge influx of migrants.

SURGE OF MIGRATION
“A surge of migration is invading the south of Algeria,” Kacimi said. “Before reaching Algeria, the migrants are abandoned in the desert, and it is Algeria that rescues them 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 has a 2,500 km (1,550 mile) border with Mali and Niger, spent $20 million in the past three years to handle an influx of illegal migrants from the Sahel region fleeing war, insecurity or poverty.
“Where is the UNHCR, where is the IOM, and where are the African states?” Kacimi said.
The UN migration agency IOM has rescued about 3,000 migrants in the area in the past four months, including some trying to get into Algeria and some being expelled, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said.
Many said it was not unusual for them to be dropped as much as 30 km (19 miles) from the border, in 45 degree Celsius (113F) heat, often without water and carrying children.
“Many of them report seeing migrants who have lost their lives, often unrecorded or unrecognized in the sand dunes,” Millman said.


Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

Updated 20 January 2019
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Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

  • Sea-Watch 3 asked where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard

ROME: A private rescue boat with dozens of migrants aboard sought permission for a second day to enter a safe port Sunday, but said so far its queries to several nations haven’t succeeded. Another vessel crowded with migrants and taking on water, meanwhile, put out an urgent, separate appeal for help in the southern Mediterranean.
Sea-Watch 3, run by a German NGO, said Sunday it has contacted Italy, Malta, Libya as well as the Netherlands, since the boat is Dutch-flagged, asking where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials had hung up when it asked for a port assignment.
An Italian state TV reporter aboard Sea-Watch 3 said the rescue took place Saturday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast west of Tripoli in Libya’s search-and-rescue area. Libya-based human traffickers launch flimsy or rickety boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach Europe and its opportunities for better lives.
Separately, Sea-Watch tweeted Sunday afternoon that it had been urgently contacted by a boat with 100 migrants aboard that said it was taking on water, 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the current location at sea of Sea-Watch 3.
The distressed vessel reported navigational problems and had among the migrants a child “unconscious or deceased,” Sea-Watch said. Subsequent communication said the boat was “taking in water” and asked Sea-Watch to call for help, “regardless of what this would mean concerning a possible return to Libya,” Sea-Watch said.
The aid group later said Malta on the phone confirmed “that they will come back to us” regarding the distress call, but it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of assistance the Maltese might give.
Migrants dread the prospect of being returned to Libya, where they have reported torture including beatings and rapes in overcrowded detention centers.
The governments of Malta and Italy have been refusing to allow private rescue boats rescuing migrants to dock. Both contend that in recent years they have taken in many migrants rescued at sea and that fellow European Union nations must agree to take their share of these asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, Malta transferred to land 49 migrants who had been aboard Sea-Watch 3 as long as 19 days but refused the boat port entry. They were allowed to set foot on the southern Mediterranean island only after an EU-brokered deal found several countries willing to take them as well as other migrants, who had been rescued at sea earlier in separate operations by Malta.