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.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.