UN says Algerian security move has stranded vulnerable Syrians in desert

Landscape view dated May 2003 shows the Saharan desert in southern Algeria. 9File photo: AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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UN says Algerian security move has stranded vulnerable Syrians in desert

  • Algeria’s interior ministry said that Syrians who had arrived overland recently were members of defeated militant groups

ALGIERS: The United Nations said on Thursday it feared for the safety of Syrians barred from entering Algeria from the south, saying some of those turned back were refugees left stranded in the desert and not suspected militants as Algiers maintains.
The official overseeing migrant policy at Algeria’s interior ministry said on Wednesday that Syrians who had arrived overland from the south recently were members of defeated militant groups from Syria’s civil war who would pose a security threat.
But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees criticized the decision, saying that some of the Syrians mentioned by the Algerian official were known to be registered refugees.
“(They) have fled conflict and persecution or claim to have attempted to seek international protection in Algeria,” a UNHCR statement said.
“According to information made available to UNHCR, 20 individuals from this group currently remain stranded in the desert, three kilometers from the Guezzam border post where they are exposed to the elements. The other 100 individuals who were taken to the border are unaccounted for,” the statement said.
Citing an “urgent humanitarian imperative,” UNHCR said it had appealed to Algerian authorities for access to Syrians affected by the ban to identify those in need of international protection and ensure their safety.
Hassen Kacimi, the interior ministry officials, said around 100 Syrians had reached the southern border with the help of local armed escorts in recent weeks but were intercepted and expelled shortly after they slipped into Algeria.
He said these Syrians had transited Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Niger or Mali using fake Sudanese passports.
Algeria has taken in around 50,000 Syrians on humanitarian grounds in recent years, Kacimi added.
Algeria went through years of devastating civil war with Islamist militant groups in the 1990s. While violence is now greatly diminished, sporadic attacks continue in isolated areas.
In Algeria’s south and southeast, largely desolate areas with few inhabitants, the government has beefed up its security presence after neighboring Libya and northern Mali and Niger descended into lawlessness with various armed groups active.


Jordanian king vows to protect Jerusalem holy sites

Updated 32 min 36 sec ago
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Jordanian king vows to protect Jerusalem holy sites

  • He said that he’s under pressure to alter his country’s historic role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites
  • A Jordanian-appointed council oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem

ZARQA, Jordan: Jordan’s King Abdullah II is vowing to keep protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, calling it a “red line” for his country.
Abdullah said Wednesday, during a visit to the Zarqa governorate outside Amman, that he’s under pressure to alter his country’s historic role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites but that he wouldn’t. Abdullah says: “I will never change my position toward Jerusalem in my life.” He added that “all my people are with me.” He did not specify what kind of pressure he was encountering.
A Jordanian-appointed council oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. It claims exclusive authority over the Noble Sanctuary, or Temple Mount, compound and says it is not subject to Israeli jurisdiction. Tensions often escalate at the site.