"Walk or die", over 13,000 #migrants are abandoned in the Sahara Desert by #Algeria ????over the 14 months, forced to walk for hours or days.— SaadAbedine (@SaadAbedine) June 25, 2018
Many are never seen again.https://t.co/1sJd24ZGpK pic.twitter.com/rwIt7JV2Do
Algeria has been accused of abandoning more than 13,000 people in the scorching heat of Sahara Desert over the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children.
According to the United Nations (U.N.) migration agency, the country expelled thousands of migrants and forced them to walk without food or water, sometimes at gunpoint and that to under temperatures of up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where some, disoriented and dehydrated, wandered aimlessly for days – others never made it out alive.
Disturbing pictures and videos revealed the plight of hundreds of people who were apparently left out there to trudge across some of the world’s most harsh terrain, that too in such intense heat.
Though the U.N. rescue team was able to reach to them, there was no count of the number of lives that perished along the way.
The Associated Press interviewed more than two dozen survivors who gave a harrowing account of the time they spent in the wilderness.
“Women were lying dead, men….. Other people got missing in the desert because they didn’t know the way,” said Janet Kamara, who was pregnant at the time. “Everybody was just on their own.”
Kamara was still reeling from the physical and emotional trauma of giving birth to a dead baby who she had left behind, buried in a shallow grave in the sands of the desert.
The migrants recounted how hundreds of them were crammed into open trucks and headed to what is known as Point Zero and then eventually dropped in the desert.
As soon as they set foot on the heated sand, even the thickest of shoes offered no comfort. But there was no turning back as the priority was survival and not comfort.
“There were people who couldn’t take it. They sat down, and we left them. They were suffering too much,” said Aliou Kande, an 18-year-old from Senegal.
One of the migrants even recorded his deportation with a phone he kept hidden.
“You’re facing deportation in Algeria – there is no mercy,” said Liberian Ju Dennis. “I want to expose them now... we are here, and we saw what they did – and we have proof.”
Unfortunately, nearly a dozen couldn’t keep up with the hardships and simply collapsed in the sand. Kande lost his group of 1000 people and never saw them again.
Officials from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have warned of a looming “catastrophe,” ever since Algeria's mass expulsions have picked up speed. Since October 2017, the European Union (EU) renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain.
According to EU’s spokesperson, the agency was aware of the inhumane practices of the country but that "sovereign countries" can expel migrants as long as they comply with international law.
IOM started counting in May 2017 and estimated as high as 2,888 number of people have been involuntarily expelled by Algeria till April 2018.
However, amid such grave accusations, Algerian authorities have denied committing human rights abuses and called the allegations a “malicious campaign” meant to inflame neighboring countries.
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