Algeria Resumes Summary Deportations of Sub-Saharans amid Anti-migrant Populism
After the scandalous racist remarks of Algerian leaders against sub-Saharan migrants, and in a blatant violation of commitment under the 1951 Geneva Convention, Algerian authorities resumed earlier this week arbitrary expulsions of Sub-Saharan migrants and asylum seekers who were abandoned in harsh conditions on the border with Niger, media reports said quoting international humanitarian NGOs.
After Algerian authorities started dismantling the makeshift camps set up by the migrants and after they launched, what the media called, a black-man hunting operation, they officially announced in a statement by the Foreign Ministry “the repatriation operations of Nigerian nationals in irregular situation in Algeria, as of August 1”.
According to some Algerian media, the government announced it earmarked over €330 million to this operation.
The decision to relaunch summary deportations comes amid a wave of anti-migrant populism expressed by senior political figures in the country, venting the sluggish economic growth on poor Sub-Saharans, most of whom have fled poverty and conflict in their home countries to look for work in Algeria or seek transit to Europe via neighboring Libya.
Embarrassed by the surge of anti-migrant sentiment and in need of workers in farming and construction, Algeria rushed to save its face with the launch of an operation to grant residency rights and job permits to illegal African migrants.
The migrant regularization plan was announced by Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune in response to the growing anti-migrant racism in the country, notably after the launch of an anonymous online campaign that blames African migrants – whose numbers are unofficially estimated at 100,000 – for taking jobs and spreading the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
Indeed, Algeria’s social media networks woke up recently to a shameful and outrageous campaign targeting sub-Saharan migrants after the launch of a racist hashtag in Arabic saying “No to Africans in Algeria”.
The Algerian social media were tarred by racist calls for “cleaning Africans off Algerian cities,” and forcing them out of Algerian borders.
Few days after the announcement of the migrant regularization campaign, a new Algerian political leader and former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia expressed statements verging on racism and hate speech against Sub-Saharan migrants in the country.
Speaking to Ennahar TV station, Ouyahya, Secretary General of RND political party, described Sub-Saharan migrants as a “source of crime, drugs and other calamities.” His racist statements showed fierce opposition to the government’s attempt to save its face by giving sub-Saharans an opportunity to obtain residency status in Algeria.
The Algerian politician went on to refuse to consider migration from a human rights perspective saying with a hostile tone that the issue is part of state “sovereignty”.
Ouyahya’s heinous stands against migrants and asylum seekers echo scandalous statements uttered last December by Advisor to President Bouteflika and ironically head of Algeria’s human rights commission Farouk Ksentini who bluntly accused sub-Saharans of spreading HIV in Algeria.
“We Algerians are exposed to the risk of HIV contamination and other sexually transmitted diseases because of these migrants,” he shamefully said last December.
“The presence of African migrants and refugees in Algeria will cause Algerians several problems,” Ksentini, a henchman of the military regime, had told Algerian media, adding that “these migrants bring diseases to Algeria.”
Last December, Algeria was rebuked by international NGOs for rounding up more than 1400 sub-Saharan migrants in Algiers who were later deported 1900 km southwards to the desert city of Tamanrasset, from which they were sent to Niger.
Algeria’s ill treatment of refugees and asylum seekers continued with the expulsion of 41 Syrian refugees to the Moroccan borders near the town of Figuig last April 17.
Several international watchdogs have lashed out at Algeria calling it to decriminalize immigration.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UNHCR have all called repeatedly on Algeria to guarantee protection to migrants and asylum seekers on its soil and halt its discriminatory policies towards them in keeping with its commitments under the 1951 Geneva Convention.