260 Malians deported by Algeria allege 'racist' police brutality

260 Malians deported by Algeria allege 'racist' police brutality
At least three Malians were killed during a mass deportation operation by Algerian authorities, the migrants alleged, accusing police of brutality and racism.
3 min read
13 December, 2016
The migrants accused Algerian forces of racism and brutality [AFP]

Some 260 Malians expelled from Algeria in a massive swoop against illegal African migrants arrived home on Monday, accusing Algerian security forces of brutality and saying many had been hurt and killed in the process.

"We were beaten up and at least three Malians were killed," said Ousmane Coulibaly, who was among those gathered at a government office who had returned to Mali overnight, adding that the Algerian forces were "racist".

Rounded up in "a big yard" after their arrest in the capital, Algiers, some of the Malians hurt their heads against walls and iron bars when trying to escape from being beaten, Coulibaly said.

"Others were hurt and one died during the transfer from Algiers to Tamanrasset and the Niger border," he said. The oasis city in southern Algeria, in the Ahaggar Mountains, is the biggest city before reaching the Niger and Mali borders.

Moussa Kante, who was also deported, confirmed the allegations and added that the group "lacked water and food."

"When we were being sent to Niger they gave us one loaf for 40 people," he said.

Deportees were sent to the Niger border by bus and then put on the road to the Niger capital, Niamey, "in trucks generally used to gather sand," said 22-year-old Oumar.

Some said they had been expelled despite having official papers and many claimed their money and phones had been seized.

"We were arrested on the first" of December, said Youssouf Doumbia. "We asked people, and the army, why we were arrested. They told us they were vaccinating people."

There was no independent or official confirmation available and Algerian authorities offered no comment on the operation.

According to Algerian police, around 150,000 migrants have fled war and economic difficulties in their countries to live in Algeria's large cities. Only 7,000 people hold refugee status in Algeria.

African migrants have been regularly expelled by the thousands since Libya's descent into chaos. It had been the focal point for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

The migrants are generally arrested in northern cities bordering the sea and transported via buses  to Tamanrasset before being sent on to their homes. Operations are supervised by the Algerian Red Cross.

A Malian official in charge of Malians who live abroad, Issa Togo, said the government deplored the ill-treatment and would ask for an inquiry into the alleged deaths.

Amnesty International official Saloum Traore too called for an immediate probe and the Malian Human Rights Association condemned "expulsions in conditions that violate basic human rights."

The government crackdown on migrants, many of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa, has been described by one Algerian union, SNAPAP [Autonomous National Union of Public Service Staff], as "the biggest hunt for the black man since independence".