More than 950 West African migrants were expelled last week by Algeria according to several sources in Niger which has become one of the main transit points for migrants in Africa.
In the past two months, around 2,800 Nigerians and some 5,000 West Africans are said to have suffered the same fate, forced to stay in the no-man’s land between Algeria and Niger where they have to cross the desert on foot or by hitchhiking to reach the nearest Nigerien localities.
Sadou Soloké, governor of the region of Agadez, said: “We do not have enough facilities to manage them. I am surprised that these Africans are coming through our borders when, in my opinion, they should all be sent home by appropriate means, rather than sending them here.”
The Nigerien government also protested: “We have already protested to Algiers for the conditions of deportation of our nationals and these migrants.”
Authorities also challenged why other nationalities, including Malians, were also being deported from Algiers when “Algeria and Mali have a common border”.
Of the 955 migrants expelled last week, 300 were Malians.
Minister of Justice, Tayeb Louh, last week confirmed that “Algeria has not closed its doors” to migrants and foreign nationals from African countries but “worked to reconcile the need to protect its borders and to secure the country with the duty of solidarity towards the African brothers, especially the nationals of neighbouring countries.”
Speaking at the second meeting of the African Union on “Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons” in Rwanda, Louh welcomed the policy adopted in the field of migration by the President of the Republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika “who has never stopped focusing on solidarity and assistance to migrants and refugees in Algeria from neighbouring African countries.”
Because of its geostrategic position in northern Africa and southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Algeria has become a host country for thousands of migrants, including illegal immigrants, after being used as a transit for their journey onto Europe.
Earlier this year, Algerian media in the country caused a stir by plastering its front pages with news that sub-Saharan activists were taking over the capital by living in squalid camps rife with diseases and taking jobs from Algerian nationals.
Officials were also accused of racism such as current prime minister, then secretary-general of the Rally for National Democracy party, Ahmed Ouyahia who referred to the migrants as “criminals” and “diseased” causing Amnesty International in Algeria to condemn the treatment of migrants.
Many Algerians fear that the current economic crisis will be exacerbated by the migrants who have decided to stay in Algeria for economic opportunities as they bide their time and save funds to continue to Europe or in the hopes of remaining in the country.
Louh appealed to African states to regulate and organise migratory flows with the aim of “taking advantage of their positive effects and coping with their negative impact at different levels, especially through the fight against trafficking networks while respecting the dignity and protection of the rights of victims.”