According to this testimony from survivors, a number of 600 people of multiple nationalities, including women and children, were left behind at the border between Algeria and Niger. Witnesses report that Algerian police abandoned them in the desert under violence and threats, without water to drink or food and not knowing which direction to take to reach the town of Assamakka in Niger. They braved all the risks to cross the sand dunes. Some arrived thirsty and exhausted. According to the whistleblower from Assamakka, the people who had been refouled could hardly pronounce a few words. People who had been lost in the desert were rescued thanks to a research team deployed by Niger's defence and security forces and international organizations on the ground.
The different estimates of the distance walked after being abandoned in the desert can differ greatly from the actual distance, but still reflect the great difficulty of navigating in desert terrain.
Witness 1 (in white shirt): In our imagination, what we have been through is more than 95 kilometres. What we have been through, from 8pm to 9am, we are there walking. We haven't even met a bus or anything. We have no water, nothing, nothing, nothing was given to us on the road, frankly.
Witness 2 (in green plaid shirt): People have fainted. There were women, there were children. It was very serious. We were abandoned in the desert.
As soon as we got to Assamakka, we were welcomed. Niger is in a position to be with us. It is thanks to Niger that we are still healthy. As soon as we arrived, (...) we were given Paracetamol, we were given food and drink, we were very well received.
We are a maximum of 600 people, 600 migrants. So there are so many of us with too much suffering. We are mistreated like slaves. We are put on buses, thrown at, beaten like animals. (...).
Witness 3 (in white boubou and red cap): And when we reach the border by bus, we are not shown the direction, we are thrown stones at, then they start shooting into the air, we are hunted like animals. "Go to Niger, go!" They don't show us the direction.
Witness 1: Our needs, because we left the country to help our families, to help our brothers and sisters. They are back home. Everyone knows well now: If things were going well at home, we would not leave. But today, it's not going well at home. How you can help us? To find a good place, not even in Europe, there are other countries, (...) if you can help us to enter a place to be free and where the work is very good, to help also our brothers who are still small, and our sisters (...), and our parents who are poor.
Witness 2: Actually, you have to hear, APS. We need APS to sincerely follow the migrants, because the migrants are tortured by the Algerians. The kids, we're being thrown away like animals. So, APS will shake up Algeria with a formal reaction, because we have suffered so much and it was really pathetic. So, on the Algerians' side, it is not okay, because we are treated like slaves, they say that we are not human beings. APS, really, we are counting on you. On the Algerian side, all migrants must be accompanied and treated well.
Witness 1: Algerians, what they do to us, when we work, when they catch you at work, they take your money, your phone, (...) all your belongings that are on you.
Witness 1: Even when they throw you into the desert, they give you nothing. Even the drinking water! 85 kilometers.
Witness 3: They confused us because they drove us away like cattle.
Witness 2: They started shooting guns, they started shooting.
Witness 2: We had a maximum of 120 kilometres, because it was so far away. So, really, we need help.
Witness 3: We wish to better help our brothers who are still in Algeria. Because in this way, we are on the side of those who will lose their lives. Because there is no direction shown, there is not even anything to eat.
Witness 2: There's not even any water to drink. (...) From 10pm to 6am, we slept in the desert.
APS whistleblower: So I understand you, you want that where you are dropped off, there should be a means of transportation to take you directly to Assamakka?
Witness 2: APS really needs to make a demand to talk to Algerians, because Algerians treat us like slaves!
Witness 3: They put us in trucks! We're being beaten up for nothing! We are put in closed trucks. We can't breathe. Suffocating is quite possible. A truck that you put under the sun, then you put people inside. Then they are suffocated, because it is a journey into the desert. They don't give us any water. There are cisterns (...). In Algeria, recently with cholera, they give us dirty water. There are cisterns for work on construction sites on the way. That's what helped us, because they didn't give us any water. And when they reached the final destination, they didn't even give us a bottle of water. There were pregnant women. There were little children.
Witnesses 1: Children aged 8 months, children aged 1 year. They were among us. There were many children among us.