FILE - Migrants expelled from Algeria complain about conditions in a transit camp in Agadez, Niger, Dec. 9, 2016. (I. Abdoul-Razak/VOA)
The U.N. human rights office is calling on the government of Algeria to stop the collective expulsions of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, condemning this practice as a violation of international human rights law.
Between March 8 and April 19, the U.N. human rights office reports Algerian authorities carried out at least six mass round-ups of sub-Saharan African migrants in Oran, Duira and Boufarik.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says raids reportedly are carried out on construction sites, in neighborhoods where migrants live, and some are picked up in the street and detained. She tells VOA the problem with the collective expulsions is no distinctions or individual assessments of the migrants are made.
“We are told that people are often just arrested and detained without even checking their documents," she said. "Of the 25 people that my colleagues spoke to in Niger, only one said that she actually had her passport checked and most of them were asked to provide thumb prints on documents in Arabic. Now, most of them do not read Arabic.”
Shamdasani says many of the migrants were not allowed to pick up their belongings before they were expelled and had to leave everything they had behind. She says some migrants were transferred rapidly to Niger. Others, she says were detained in reportedly inhuman and degrading conditions in military bases.
"Nigeriens are transferred by bus to Agadez in Niger, while the others are crammed into big trucks to be transferred to the Nigerien border where they are then abandoned and left to walk for hours in the desert heat to cross the border into Niger. We heard testimony indicating the migrants who do remain in Algeria are, understandably, very fearful,” she said.
Shamdasani says U.N. monitors have conveyed their dismay about these collective expulsions to the Algerian authorities. She will not discuss their response, but notes many governments raise so-called security issues as reasons for deportations.
Under International human rights law, migrants shall not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, nor arbitrarily deprived of property or documents. It says returns should be carried out in safe conditions and with dignity.