More than 13,000 people have been expelled into the Sahara desert by Algeria in the past 14 months, according to a recent report by the Associated Press (AP). Many of them — including children — have died in the 118 degree F heat as they’ve tried to seek refuge in “nearby” countries.
There are reports that Algeria has been doing this for years. The sharp increase now in expulsions is due to the pressure being put on North African countries to block migrants before they make their way into Europe, which continues to deal with an unsustainable number of refugees.
The AP interviewed over two dozen survivors, including multiple women who had given birth during the trek and whose children had not survived. Those who don’t get lost in the desert or die of dehydration end up in Niger with little-to-no food, money, or family. According to the International Organization for Migration, from May 2017 to April 2018 the number of people who have crossed into Niger on foot has increased from 135 to 2,888.
Forcing people — reportedly sometimes at gunpoint, and without food or water — into an expansive and brutal desert is shockingly inhumane. There are also many reports from migrants that Algerian authorities beat and robbed them of their cash and cell phones before forcing them into the desert. In a statement to NPR, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said: “While UNHCR recognizes Algeria’s sovereign right to adopt measures to address irregular migration, collective expulsions are prohibited under international law.”
The devastation is just the latest in the ongoing international migrant crisis. According to a UN reporter, the number of migrants in the world reached 258 million in 2017 — an increase of 14 million from 2015.