Algeria deports nearly 400 migrants back to Niger

African migrants from Niger take a break during a temporary stop on their way to a transit centre for migrants, about 200 kilometres north of Tamanrasset and 2000 kilometres south of the capital Algiers, on June 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2018

Algeria deports nearly 400 migrants back to Niger

  • The IOM and EU are intensifying efforts to return African migrants home
  • 391 migrants from 16 west and central African countries had arrived in Assamaka

NIAMEY: Algeria has deported nearly 400 African migrants trying to reach Europe, sending them back over the Sahara desert into neighboring Niger, the UN migration agency (IOM) and Niger said on Sunday.
The IOM and European Union are intensifying efforts to return African migrants home, after thousands have died making the dangerous crossing to Europe across the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats. Many get stuck before ever reaching Africa’s northern coast, either in Libya, where they suffer slavery and abuse at the hands of militias, or Algeria.
IOM operations officer Livia Manente told Reuters in an email that the group of 391 migrants from 16 west and central African countries had arrived in the Nigerien town of Assamaka on Friday on about 20-30 vehicles, after being stopped while heading to work in various Algerian cities.
“They claim their phones were confiscated and that conditions were poor — not much food and water, crowded rooms),” she said. “They were transported in trucks after the locality of In Guezzam and then obliged to walk across the border ... including families with pregnant women and children.”
Aboubacar Ajouel, the mayor of Agadez, the last destination for the migrants, confirmed that they had arrived.
Algeria declined to confirm this particular deportation, but said that 20,000 migrants had been prevented from reaching Europe by Algerian authorities since January, thanks to security measures put in place at its borders with Mali and Niger.
“We have no choice but to prevent them,” Hassen Kacimi, director of Algeria’s interior ministry in charge of migration, told Reuters by telephone.

Kurd forces welcome US decisionto keep 200 troops

“We evaluate the White House decision ... positively,” Abdulkarim Omar. (AP)
Updated 58 min 12 sec ago

Kurd forces welcome US decisionto keep 200 troops

  • White House unveils plan to maintain ‘a small peacekeeping force’ in Syria

BEIRUT, WASHINGTON: The Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria welcomed a US decision to keep 200 American troops in the country after a pullout, saying it would protect their region and may encourage European states to keep forces there too.

“We evaluate the White House decision ... positively,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the region held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Reuters.

The White House announced the plans on Thursday to keep “a small peacekeeping force” in Syria, partly reversing a decision by President Donald Trump in December to pull out the entire 2,000-strong force.

Trump’s abrupt announcement of the pullout had been opposed by senior aides including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who quit in response, and stunned allies including the Kurdish-led SDF, which fought against Daesh with US backing for years.

“This decision may encourage other European states, particularly our partners in the international coalition against terrorism, to keep forces in the region,” Omar added.

“I believe that keeping a number of American troops and a larger number of (other) coalition troops, with air protection, will play a role in securing stability and protecting the region too,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had harshly criticized Trump’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria, applauded the president’s decision to leave a few hundred as part of an “international stabilizing force.” Graham said it will ensure that Turkey will not get into a conflict with SDF forces, which helped the US fight Daesh militants. 

Moreover, Graham said leaving a small force in Syria will serve as a check on Iranian ambitions and help ensure that Daesh militants do not try to return.

“A safe zone in Syria made up of international forces is the best way to achieve our national security objectives of continuing to contain Iran, ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS (Daesh), protecting our Turkish allies, and securing the Turkish border with Syria,” Graham said.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a “betrayal of our Kurdish partners.”

The SDF is led by a Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers an enemy. Kurdish officials had feared that a total US withdrawal would create a security vacuum and allow Turkey to launch a long-promised offensive against them.

The Kurds, who seek autonomy within Syria, have made overtures to the government of Bashar Assad, seeking security guarantees as Washington withdraws.

“I believe that these forces in this region ... will be a motivation, an incentive and also a means of pressure on Damascus to try seriously to have a dialogue to resolve the Syrian crisis,” Omar said. 

The SDF is currently involved in a standoff over the final sliver of land held by Daesh in eastern Syria, close to the Iraq border.

Many believe the Daesh threat will not end with the pocket’s recapture and an insurgency is underway. 

In a foreboding sign on Thursday, Daesh claimed responsibility for back-to-back suicide attacks that hit a village miles away, leaving more than a dozen people dead in a rare targeting of civilians.

It is unclear where the 200 remaining US troops will be stationed.

The U.S. military has a limited network of bases inside Syria. Troops work mostly out of small camps in remote parts of the country’s northeast.

Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group. Al-Tanf is on a vital road linking Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon — and Israel’s doorstep.

Trump spoke Thursday with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“On Syria, the two presidents agreed to continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone,” the White House said in a statement about the call.

The White House also said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford will be hosting their Turkish counterparts in Washington this week for further talks.