For several months, Algeria has been forcibly and violently expelling thousands of migrants – both registered asylum seekers and undocumented migrants – to Niger. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), mass arrests are taking place and asylum seekers in cities such as Oran, Algiers, and Blida have been stripped of their belongings and sent to Niger on trucks and buses. On October 1st, 2020, Algeria’s interior minister announced an operation designed to combat “illegal migration” and in the following days, expelled hundreds of migrants.
HRW reports that many migrants were left in the desert near the border of Niger and told to walk from there. Children have been separated from their families and Algeria has not allowed anyone to obtain lawyers or challenge their removal regardless of refugee status. Many of the migrants and asylum seekers are registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) but are still facing expulsion. HRW states that over 3,400 migrants have been expelled in the last month from Algeria, bringing the total this year to over 16,000. These numbers include over 20 nationalities, though HRW reports that over half were Nigerien.
Lauren Seibert, a refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated, “Algeria is entitled to protect its borders, but not to arbitrarily detain and collectively expel migrants, including children and asylum seekers, without a trace of due process.” Algeria has failed to take into account anyone’s immigration or asylum status and has unjustly expelled thousands of migrants from their country. According to Al Jazeera, a migrant who was interviewed from the Ivory Coast recalled how they were left with nothing in the desert and told, “You came to Algeria with nothing, and you will leave with nothing.” Many migrants also described forceful and violent removal from their homes.
Niger is a key route taken by many African migrants who are attempting to reach the Mediterranean and safely cross into Europe. Algeria has signed the UN and African Refugee Conventions, as well as the Convention Against Torture, but has failed to follow what is outlined in these documents. The unlawful and violent removal of migrants and asylum seekers is a very serious and alarming denial of human rights. People who are looking for asylum in Algeria from terrible conditions such as war and violence are faced with the same treatment they fled from.
HRW has documented previous abuse towards migrants in police stations and camps in Algeria between 2016 and 2018. According to both non-profit and UN organizations, there has been an estimated 25,000 migrants expelled to Niger in 2018, and another 25,000 in 2019. This does not account for the large number of asylum seekers forced out of the country just this year.
Algeria has failed to follow the conventions they have signed which protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and must be held accountable for doing so. The unlawful treatment of Algerian migrants has put numerous individuals, many of whom are children at risk. These individuals fled their home countries for fear of persecution or war and have now been left unprotected after being forced from the North African country.