By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – Algerian authorities have reportedly launched a new massive wave of expulsion by forcibly deporting more than 10,000 migrants from various sub-Saharan countries to the neighboring states of Niger and Mali.
The news was confirmed by the Algerian Minister of Interior and Local Authorities, Noureddine Bedoui on Sunday, December 24, without providing any further details about when the eviction operations took place.
In an attempt to avoid using the term “expulsion,” the minister said that the migrants were “driven to the borders,” adding that this measure was made in “consultation with the countries concerned,” namely Niger and Mali. He said that “illegal migrants” are not welcomed on the Algerian territory.
Bedoui’s statements come to echo the sentiment already displayed by Algerian high officials, including the current Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia who previously labeled migrants as “criminals” and “transmitters of HIV.”
Ouyahia’s words were judged by civil society, human rights associations, and some political parties as racist and scandalous.
The fresh wave of deportations also recalls many other massive crackdowns conducted by the Algerian state against migrants, who are generally tracked down by security forces and transported in busses to Tamanrasset, in the Algerian desert, before being deported to their respective countries, or left out in the desert.
The crackdown on migrants from sub-Saharan Africa is subject to repeated controversy in Algeria. Many media outlets both in Algeria and abroad described the “shameful” massive operation targeting the immigrants as “the chase of the black man” and a form of “state racism.”
Several NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have denounced ethnic profiling in the expulsion of sub-Saharan migrants from Algerian territory.
According to a research conducted by the human rights organization Amnesty International, the arrests were made on the basis of “racial profiling as they did not seek to ascertain whether the migrants had the right to stay in the country, either by checking their passports or other documents.”
The study also indicates that some of those arrested and deported are undocumented migrants, while others have valid visas.
For Amnesty’s North Africa Research Director Heba Morayef, “there can be no justification for rounding up and forcibly deporting hundreds of people based on the colour of their skin or their assumed country of origin – a blatant case of mass racial profiling.”
These NGOs evoke among the expelled persons, migrants who lived and worked for years in Algeria, pregnant women, families with newborns and unaccompanied children.
Furthermore, a video related to this thorny issue has caused an uproar as it featured members of the the Algerian army forcing Sub-Saharan migrants to slap each other while the soldiers were enjoying the inhuman show.