The UN Special Rapporteur on Migration, Mr Felipe Morales, has called on Algeria to halt the collective expulsion of thousands of foreign nationals to Niger.
“Atrocities suffered by child and adult migrants from West African States should shock the conscience of humanity into action,” Morales said.
The appeal for help from the international community from the UN rights investigator followed his official visit to Niger, a hub for those looking to leave in search of new opportunities, for decades.
In a statement, Morales cited testimonies of migrants exposed to “unimaginable atrocities”: trafficking, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, as well as worker-exploitation and enslavement.
These migrants had taken migrant routes through Sudan, Chad, Libya and Mali to Niger.
While commending Niger for its “generosity and solidarity” in hosting refugees, Morales noted how in recent years restrictive migration laws and policies had made it a “virtual southern border of Europe”.
He highlighted how the 2015 law on illicit smuggling of migrants had resulted in a “de facto ban of migration toward the north”, prompting people to look for other, even riskier alternatives.
“Despite its purported aim to prevent and combat the illicit smuggling of migrants, the implementation of the law has led to the criminalisation of migration and violations of the human rights of migrants.
“Multiple sources have indicated that instead migrants have shifted to more dangerous, longer and more expensive routes,” the Special Rapporteur said.
The independent rights expert, who was appointed in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, insisted that migration policies “cannot solely rely on security considerations” and must have human rights “as a central component”.
Any help from the international community, particularly, the European Union, should help Niger “in re-focusing” its migration management strategy, he said.
He said this would involve strengthening national institutions, so that they could cope with large movements of migrants, enhancing monitoring of their human rights, and supporting development projects in local communities.
The Special Rapporteur also called on Algeria to halt the alleged collective expulsions of Nigerien and West African migrants to Niger immediately.
The UN rights investigator noted that this had involved more than 17,000 people in 2018 so far, however, the allegations have been denied by Algeria.
“I heard testimonies of migrant women, men and children who were raided in their homes in the middle of the night, arbitrarily arrested and detained, beaten and ill-treated, transported in trucks and dropped 15 kilometres from the border with Niger.
“These migrants are forced to walk through the desert, without any assistance from Algerian or Nigerien authorities, until the first Nigerien village, 20 kilometres away from the border,” . Morales said.