By Lisa Vives
In one of the most shocking reports on the ill-treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, the International Organization for Migration has confirmed that thousands of African migrants are being left to die in blistering desert heat after being deported by the government of Algeria and dumped in the Sahara.
A new investigation by the Associated Press has prompted an avalanche of media reports although the deportations have been going on for more than a year. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports about them this year and last year but such reports received little major media coverage until now.
At the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union held in Kigali, Rwanda, Algeria, along with Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and a number of other countries refused to sign the protocol on the freedom of movement of people and right of residence attached to the African Union’s African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
Reportedly this was due to fears of mass migration to North Africa from sub-Saharan Africa.
From the AP report: “The migrants’ accounts are confirmed by multiple videos collected by the AP over months, which show hundreds of people stumbling away from lines of trucks and buses, spreading wider and wider through the desert.”
Meanwhile, according to Amnesty International, Algerian authorities engage in racial profiling against foreign nationals, rounding up and forcibly expelling more than 2,000 sub-Saharan African migrants from a range of countries over the past three weeks. Those expelled include more than 300 minors, among them at least 25 unaccompanied children.
“There can be no justification for rounding up and forcibly deporting hundreds of people based on the colour of their skin or their assumed country of origin – a blatant case of mass racial profiling,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.
Algerian authorities have vigorously denied charges of abuse. “Algeria has never reneged on its commitment to international treaties” on human rights, as stipulated in its Constitution, the foreign ministry declared.
“It has ratified laws that protect its citizens and foreigners on its territory against all forms of discrimination,” it stressed, adding “Algeria has long been a land of refuge for those whose safety is at threat in their countries.”
The ministry acknowledged it had in recent years witnessed an unprecedented illegal migrants phenomenon but international laws and commitments were followed, they insisted, to ensure the security of Algerian citizens.
“The best solution to illegal migration lies in tackling the problems that forces hundreds of men, women and children to leave their countries,” the Foreign Ministry stressed.