MSF accuse Algerian authorities of deporting thousands of migrants to Niger desert

Doctors without Borders say 4,677 migrants were deported to northern Niger between January 11 and March 3

A group of migrant men, mainly from Niger and Nigeria, sit in the back of a pick up, on January 22, 2019 during a journey across the Air dessert, northern Niger, towards the Libyan border post of Gatrone. (Photo by Souleymane AG ANARA / AFP)
Powered by automated translation

Thousands of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa have been deported by Algeria to the desert of northern Niger, the medical humanitarian charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) claimed on Thursday.

MSF said that between January 11 and March 3, at least 4,677 migrants to Assamaka ― a town in northern Niger’s Agadez region ― arrived on foot after being deported from Algeria and stranded in the desert. Fewer than 15 per cent of them were able to access shelter or protection when they arrived.

The organisation called on the international community and the Economic Community of West African states (Ecowas) to “urgently provide protection” for the people stranded in the desert.

“Today, the health centre that we support in Assamaka is overflowing. The majority of people who have recently arrived in Assamaka have settled in the IHC compound, due to a lack of space in the transit centre,” Doctors Without Borders said in its press release.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Niger is currently home to a million refugees and asylum seekers, 700,000 of whom have been forcibly displaced either internally, or from other nearby countries as of February 2023.

MSF declared a state of “emergency” earlier this year and on Thursday stated that “the lack of available shelter" was forcing people to sleep in appalling conditions.

"This situation is now an emergency ― it is untenable for anyone to remain living in these conditions."

Algerian authorities have not responded to the MSF report. However, in 2018, the Algerian Foreign Ministry accused international humanitarian organisations of leading “ a malicious misinformation campaign” against the country.

Updated: March 17, 2023, 6:01 PM