Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers were expelled to Niger by Algerian authorities during roundups of mostly sub-Saharan Africans across at least nine cities, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday.
Migrants were pulled from streets, homes, and work sites before being crammed into trucks and buses before being expelled to Niger.
Rokia Tamara, a 23 year old from the Ivory Coast, said she and her two children were apprehended in July. “The police forced their way into our house, grabbed us, didn’t explain why, didn’t ask for documents,” she said. “I explained that I was recovering from a Caesarian operation, but they took me anyway. The children were sleeping, and they took them too.”
During these roundups, unaccompanied children or children separated from their families are detained and deported without knowing where their parents are.
Since early September, Algeria has expelled over 3,400 migrants of at least 20 nationalities to Niger. While the all-Nigerian convoys were accepted by Niger, according to a 2014 bilateral oral agreement, mixed-nationality groups were not. Nigeriens were crammed into trucks or buses and handed to Niger’s army and mixed-nationality convoys were left in the desert near Niger’s border.
Over 1,600 people of various nationalities — mostly West and Central Africans — were left in the desert, and abandoned at a location known as “Point Zero,”. Authorities ordered them to walk 15 kilometres to Assamaka, Niger’s closest village without guidance. Temperatures can reach 45°C (113°F) during the day, and drop sharply at night.
Six migrants told Human Rights Watch that Algerian authorities deported them to the border without an opportunity to collect their belongings, challenge their removal, or ask for a lawyer.
“They told us, ‘You came to Algeria with nothing, and you will leave with nothing,’” said a 28-year-old Ivorian man.
Two migrants said they saw Algerian authorities destroy some migrants’ documents during the roundups. “I saw the gendarmes tear up my friend’s legal work documents and throw them in the trash,” said a Guinean.
All six migrants said the authorities confiscated everything they had on them, including phones and money, and the items were never returned.
“Algeria is entitled to protect its borders, but not to arbitrarily detain and collectively expel migrants, including children and asylum seekers, without a trace of due process,” said Lauren Seibert, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Before moving to deport anyone, authorities should verify their immigration or asylum status individually and ensure individual court reviews.”
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