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.


German Daesh ‘shoemaker’ pleads to come home from Syria

Updated 7 min 30 sec ago
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German Daesh ‘shoemaker’ pleads to come home from Syria

  • Speaking in near-fluent English peppered with Arabic words, Sufyan recounts his winding journey to what he thought would be a pious life under Islamic rule
  • Sufyan was hired at a hospital in Daesh’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa, using his 12 years’ experience as an orthopaedic shoemaker

RMELAN, Syria: From northern Syria, Muslim convert Sufyan is imploring his native Germany to take him back, having been captured years after joining the Daesh group’s so-called “caliphate.”
His beard neatly buzzed, Sufyan is one of hundreds of foreigners held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in war-torn Syria, accused of fighting for Daesh.
The 36-year-old insists he was not a fighter, but a misguided civilian making orthopaedic shoes and prosthetics in Daesh territory.
“I am not Jihadi John, I am not Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, I am not Adnani,” said Sufyan, listing Daesh’s infamous British executioner, its elusive chief, and its now-dead spokesman.
“I just made limbs,” added the pale-skinned Sufyan, who refused to give his real name and said he was from Stuttgart in southwest Germany.
He was selected to speak to AFP by the YPG, who detained him around a year ago and were present during the interview.
They have refused to try accused foreign fighters in their custody, urging Western countries to take them back.
Some foreign governments have agreed to do so, but most are reluctant.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are holding several alleged German Daesh members, including Mohammad Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German national accused of helping plan the September 11 attacks.
Berlin is not known to have repatriated anyone, but Sufyan hopes he, his Syrian wife and their son can start afresh in Germany.
“People make mistakes and I was naive,” he said, dressed in a yellow hoody with a side zip, cargo pants, and black beanie.
“I just want to go back to my old life.”
Speaking in near-fluent English peppered with Arabic words, Sufyan recounts his winding journey to what he thought would be a pious life under Islamic rule.
In 2014, Daesh declared a “caliphate” across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The following year, Sufyan traveled across Europe and Turkey, finally crossing into Syria in March 2015, four years into the Syrian war.
Once inside, he says, Daesh shuffled him among safe houses for weeks alongside Australians, Central Asians, and Russians.
He was given one month of military training and assigned to a battalion, but claims he never fought.
“I didn’t fight and I didn’t kill anyone,” he said.
“I never killed any person in my life.”
Instead, Sufyan was hired at a hospital in Daesh’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa, using his 12 years’ experience as an orthopaedic shoemaker.
“They teach me over there prosthetics. Until I came to YPG, I was doing this job... making prosthetic and orthopaedic shoes,” he said.
In 2016, he married a Syrian woman from northwest Idlib, and they had a son.
They stayed in Raqqa until YPG-led forces surrounded the northern city in 2017, forcing them to flee to the Daesh-held eastern town of Mayadeen.
Sufyan took up the same work there until Mayadeen came under attack, this time by the Russia-backed Syrian regime.
He said he had grown embittered toward Daesh by then and decided to pay a smuggler to bring him and his family to a YPG checkpoint.
“I was not ready to kill someone or to die, so I decided to go out,” said Sufyan. “Everyone was running away.”
A year later, Sufyan lives separated from his wife and son, who are detained in a Kurdish-run camp. He desperately wants to be reunited with his family.
Kurdish authorities say they have in their custody around 520 male foreign Daesh members, 550 women and around 1,200 children from 44 countries.
According to a European Parliament report in May, Germany estimates there are 290 children with claims to German citizenship in Iraq and Syria.
“If I can come back to Germany and if Germany want to punish me, I will accept this, to stay in prison,” Sufyan told AFP.
“I hope it will not be a long sentence, because I miss already my wife and my son,” he said.
He hopes to study or open his own business in his homeland, for which he has renewed appreciation since meeting Syrians who “see Germany as something like a paradise on earth.”
“I know Germany is a country with a lot of ‘rahma’ with a lot of people. I expect that Germany will have also ‘rahma’ with me,” he said, using the Arabic word for “mercy.”
Sufyan has written to his parents in Germany, who replied and also sent a letter and money to his wife.
Included in his parents’ reply was a picture of a bicycle, which has kept Sufyan’s hopes of returning home alive.
“My brain says, why will my mother and my father buy a bicycle for my son if he is in Syria? I hope I can go back to my country and make a new start.”