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.


Algeria goes offline to stop students cheating

Updated 18 min 24 sec ago
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Algeria goes offline to stop students cheating

ALGIERS: Algeria went offline on Wednesday for the start of high school diploma exams, the first in a series of Internet blackouts to stop students cheating.
Mobile and fixed Internet lines were cut across the country for a total of two hours, to coincide with the start of two separate school tests, AFP journalists in Algiers said.
A third hour-long Internet shutdown was planned for later on Wednesday, according to a schedule issued by public operator Algerie Telecom.
Internet services were cut “in compliance with instructions from the government, aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly,” Algerie Telecom said.
The pre-planned blackouts are due to continue for the whole period of exams, until Monday, to combat cheating among more than 700,000 students.
Ali Kahlane, president of telecoms association AOTA, said operators were required to conform to the government’s demands.
The 2016 exam season was marred by widespread cheating, with exam questions published on social media before or at the start of the test.
Last year, authorities requested operators shut down access to social media, but the move did not entirely end the problem.
Latecomers were banned from taking the exam and instead had to attend a specially organized test.
Electronics with Internet access, such as mobile phones and tablets, were this year banned from Algeria’s more than 2,000 exam centers.
Metal detectors have meanwhile been set up at the entrance to the centers, Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit said.
In a further move to prevent questions being leaked, the minister said mobile phone jammers and surveillance cameras had been installed in locations where the exam papers are printed.