With the relaxation of measures against the Covid-19 pandemic, African countries have also begun to reopen their borders to travellers and commodities. Alarme Phone Sahara (APS) condemns the fact that this normalization is also accompanied by an intensification of deportations and pushbacks from Algeria to Niger. According to reports on Algerian social media, about 1500 people have been deported from Algeria in the first such large-scale mass expulsion operation since the Covid-19 crisis.
The Alarme Phone Sahara (APS) office in Agadez confirms that the resumption of mass deportations from Algeria to Niger has already started on 20th of June, with the arrival of 241 people in the city of Agadez after their deportation. According to Safia Ayouba and Moctar Nalosso of the APS office, all those concerned were citizens of Niger, including four women, six underage girls, 194 men and 37 underage boys. The people were deported in a so-called official convoy agreed between the Algerian and Nigerien authorities on the basis of an agreement between the two countries on the "repatriation" of migrants living in Algeria in so-called "irregular" conditions.
In addition, François Ibrahim, alert person for Alarme Phone Sahara's in Assamaka at the Algerian-Nigerian border, confirms that a number of 683 deported people arrived in Assamaka on 27th of July 2020. These people are as well all citizens of Niger, deported in an "official convoy". According to the observation of François Ibrahim, in this group of deported persons, there were 90 women, 60 underage girls, 75 underage boys and 458 men. Of those who were deported on 27th of July, around 423 were taken in at the Assamaka reception centre.
François Ibrahim also confirms the arrival of 361 people of different nationalities deported in a non-official convoy already on 24th of July. In this kind of deportation operation, the people concerned are left behind by the Algerian security forces in the desert in the Algerian-Nigerian border area without the direct involvement of the Niger authorities. According to François Ibrahim, in this group there were 140 citizens of Mali, including two women, three boys and three girls under age; one person from Guinea Bissau; 85 persons from Guinea Conakry; 6 persons from Cameroon, including one woman; 13 persons from Senegal; 6 from Benin; two Chadians; three Ivorians; 14 from Burkina Faso; 22 persons from Nigeria; 36 from the Sudan; 10 from Sierra Leone; two from the Gambia; one person from Gabon; three from Liberia and 17 persons from Niger, including one boy under age.
Resumption of the systematic violation of migrants' rights
Alarme Phone Sahara condemns the re-normalization of the systematic violation of migrants' rights in Algeria, which manifests itself by brutal physical violence and threats against migrants by Algerian security forces during deportations.
"(...) I was beaten up by the police in the city even before they took me to the site where they were packing together many people of various nationalities. We spent almost 10 days in prison. We only ate a bit of "la vache qui rit" cheese with some bread once a day. If today you have eaten in the morning, you have to wait until tomorrow at night. They transported us to Assamaka in buses where the authorities of Niger loaded us into animal transport vehicles packed like parcels. I had never been in such a vehicle before. (...)"
"(...) In the middle of the Sahara, the security forces of Algeria deported us. We were seven persons. These men used their guns to intimidate us. We left behind all our belongings (money, cell phone, food) in the bushes. We were arrested and kept in their camp for 48 hours without eating anything. Requests for anything (food or drink) are answered with corporal punishment. (...)"
"(...) The worst was when they transported us to the Algerian police and gendarmerie stations. We were about a hundred all placed behind fences. This is where we started responding when we were beaten. This enabled us to put pressure on them. The police then slowed down to ask us to calm down. We were then transported to the city of Tamanrasset. There, we suffered more than during the previous stages for more than a month. Some of us were injured as a result of torture. (...)"
The deportations from Algeria in their international context
The institutional basis for mass deportations from Algeria to Niger is a bilateral agreement since 2014. The victims of this collaboration are, on the one hand, the citizens of Niger, who have been migrating, often seasonally, to the neighbouring country for a long time in search of work and sources of income. On the other hand, the targeted persons are nationals of various African countries who have been increasingly stranded in Algeria in recent years. The reasons for this are the war and the hunting of migrants in Libya, the closure of the Moroccan border and in general all the practices that seek to block migration routes to Europe. The Algerian state, on the one hand, pursues its own interest to show a tough policy against refugees and migrants and to satisfy racism within its own society. At the same time, it also seeks to position itself as a reliable partner for the border regime of the European Union states. With them, it does not have an official migration control agreement so far, but still receives large quantities of military and security goods, such as surveillance technology or vehicles from the German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz.
No to the continuing drama of deportations from Algeria to Niger
It's obvious: With the deportations from Algeria to Niger, a continuing drama of violations of the human rights of migrants and refugees is taking place. A drama that causes death, injury and trauma. A drama that is encouraged and orchestrated by the European policy that seeks to externalize its border regime throughout the Sahel-Saharan space.
Alarme Phone Sahara calls on the civil societies of the countries involved and concerned to resist deportations and pushbacks and to defend the lives, rights and freedom of movement of migrants and refugees.
Alarme Phone Sahara also calls on the governments and parliaments of all countries concerned, such as Mali and Guinea, to support their own citizens and speak out against the mass deportations from Algeria to Niger.