Niger calls out Algeria's 'aggressive' deportation of migrants to desert border

Niger calls out Algeria's 'aggressive' deportation of migrants to desert border
In the first quarter of 2024, Algeria deported over 17,000 migrants to the 'Point Zero' in the Sahara borders with Niger.
3 min read
08 April, 2024
A crowd of migrants gather in Assamaka, Niger, on 29 March 2023. [Getty]

Niger wants to put an end to Algeria's "aggressive" policy of arresting, deporting and abandoning Sub-Saharan migrants on the Sahara borders.

"Niger denounces large-scale police raids recently targeting Sub-Saharan Africans, including many Nigeriens, residing in Tamanrasset (Southern Algeria), disregarding their physical integrity and security of their property," wrote Niger's foreign ministry in a press statement on 3 April.

The ministry's Facebook page shared videos showing dozens of Nigeriens in Algeria getting loaded onto trucks towards the border or abandoned on foot in the desert, some with bandages. The Nigerien officials have also summoned representatives from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to address the 'escalating situation.'

In response, the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that Niamey's statement "included unsubstantiated provisions," prompting them to summon the Nigerien Ambassador to Algeria, Amino Malam Manzo.

In its statement, Algiers "reminded" Niamey that such issues "should be discussed within a bilateral and cooperation framework."

"We confirm Algeria's commitment to the fundamental principles of good neighbourliness and its willingness to continue coordinating with Niger on this migration-related issue," added Algiers' statement.

The press release did not address or clarify the situation of the migrants in the videos Niamey shared.

In the first quarter of 2024, Algeria deported more than 17,000 migrants into the desert at the border with Niger, according to the Alarm Phone Sahara Association.

This is not the first time Algeria has faced such accusations. The North African country is notorious for abandoning migrants in the Sahara desert to fend for themselves.

Every year, Algeria expels thousands of sub-Saharan Africans to Niger, abandoning them at a place called Point-Zero on the border in the middle of the Sahara, a few hours south by foot from the Nigerien village of Assamaka.

Algeria deported 26,000 migrants to the zone last year. Between January and March 2023, 4,677 migrants arrived in Assamaka on foot after being deported from Algeria and stranded in the desert. Fewer than 15 per cent of them could access shelter or protection when they arrived.

Since 2020, around 30 bodies have been found north of Assamaka, according to InfoMigrants.

Over the past years, teams from IOM and Doctors without Borders (MSF) have launched combing operations whenever a "pedestrian convoy" is reported to prevent migrants from losing their way and reaching exhaustion in the desert.

Several sources claim that the two countries have a 'readmission' agreement dating back to 2014, which has never been made public.

However, relations between Algiers and Niamey have soured since the military coup in Niger last June.

Last October, the Nigerien Junta adamantly rejected Algeria's proposed mediation shortly after Algiers announced the conclusion of a six-month transition agreement with the junta.

In recent years, Algeria has been seeking stronger ties with the Sahel state, mainly as part of its endeavour to construct a Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline connecting Nigeria to Algeria's Mediterranean coast via Niger.