Algeria’s deadly expulsions of migrants and refugees into the Sahara Desert have nearly come to a halt after widespread condemnation and the abrupt firing of two top security officials.
AP reported that, according to UN International Organisation for Migration officials, more than 13 000 people — including women and children — had been dropped off in the desert borders that Algeria shares with Niger and Mali since May 2017.
Under three weeks after the report, the expulsions to the harsh, dangerous region have all but ended.
Before the AP reached out to Algeria for comment and published the report on June 26, the North African nation had been expelling migrants and refugees by the hundreds almost every week into the unforgiving desert, sometimes to their deaths.
Algeria has refused repeated AP requests for comment on the expulsions.
The European Union also declined to comment. The expulsions came as Europe pressured North African governments to head off the migrants before they can cross the Mediterranean Sea.
An aid worker with contacts in Algeria told the AP that the mass detentions continue, but now migrants and refugees, including dozens of pregnant women, are warehoused in overcrowded jails. The worker requested anonymity to avoid retribution from the Algerian government.
Algeria also continues to deport migrants and refugees from neighbouring Niger, with which it has had an expulsion agreement since 2015. But while migrants and refugees from other sub-Saharan countries were secretly released in the desert and forced to walk for miles under the blistering sun, the Nigeriens have long been driven to the border by convoys.
After the AP report in June, Algerian officials invited local media to watch such a round of deportations to prove they were humanely done.
Since the report, Algeria’s security forces have fallen into disarray, with the head of the gendarmerie and the chief of national security both being forced from their jobs. It is unclear why the men were fired, but both were linked to the migrant and refugee expulsions in the desert, as well as to an unrelated corruption scandal involving the seizure of more than 700 kilogrammes of cocaine from a cargo ship in May. — Al Jazeera