Following the intense reproach from African Nations and the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), Algeria has ceased purging refugees to the baneful conditions of the Sahara Desert. Algeria’s official end to their practice of forcing families, including expectant mothers and children, into the unforgiving desert at gunpoint was documented by the Associated Press (AP) on July 11. While the immediate threat from Algeria’s government seems to be over, there is no telling how many atrocities future emigrants and refugees may face passing through the country, or how amends will be made to the thousands who lost friends and family members on the deadly forced exodus.
Officials around the world have shown strong disdain for Algeria’s blatant disregard for the law and affinity for cruel treatment. In a released statement from the AP, Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch reprimanded the situation, “Algeria has the power to control its borders, but that doesn’t mean it can round up people… and dump them in the desert… without a shred of due process.” In a similar spirit of unity among the African people, chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat of the AU Commission spoke out against the injustice by stating, “We cannot accept African countries ill-treating Africans, even if they enter the country illegally.”
All commendation belongs to the IOM and other African nations for getting involved and putting an end to Algeria’s self made refugee crisis. The lack of commentary and action from both Algeria and the European Union (EU) pertaining to the refugee crisis and humanitarian disaster was distressing. There is no reason why children, or even fully grown men, should be stripped of their phones, money, and then be driven into a place where few humans can survive. There is no excuse for shooting people who protest, or leaving behind the elderly and sick who cannot continue the 15 kilometer walk to the haven of Assamaka, Niger.
No matter if there are thousands of refugees seeking asylum, or millions, everyone deserves to be treated with human dignity and offered assistance. The outrage and response to Algeria’s conduct was justified, if slightly slow moving. Especially after, according to the Associated Press, the country lied to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by claiming to have treated migrants “fairly.”
Historically, the trek across the Sahara has been one that few survive. However, it has been a trek that many have attempted to avoid strict Nigerian migrant laws and human traffickers. Ever since the EU strongly insisted that North African countries put a lid on immigration across the Mediterranean in 2014, governments began to crack down on all migrants, even refugees, in a cruel and inhumane manner.
While Niger accepted money from the EU to assist with the migration crisis, Algeria never officially took the help, despite the StarTribune finding that Algeria received upwards of $111.3 million USD between 2014 and 2017. None of these funds seemed to have gone towards the safe transportation of the people who came to their country seeking asylum.
More than 13,000 people have been forced into the desert and left to die in the last 14 months, according to a report from Al Jazeera. The IOM even estimates that upwards of 30,000 have died attempting to cross the desert since 2014.
To the consternation of Europe and others, Algeria has recently rejected the EU’s offer to set up “migrant centres,” as have other various African nations. They have cause to be dubious as the EU’s main concern seems to be keeping African migrants out of Europe, and not the wellbeing of the migrants. The impending fate of North Africa and its refugees remains to be seen as no country seems willing to take drastic action or allow migrants safe spaces. All forthcoming attempts at peace will likely be left to the hands of African governments, rather than the intervention of foreign powers. Although with the critical issues of drug smuggling, human trafficking and strict laws barring migration surrounding Niger, Algeria and other African nations, justice and order may still be a few years out of their reach, unless immediate compromises and diplomacy are put forth.
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