Guinean migrants describe 'lethal' detention in Algeria
ALGIERS - Guinean illegal immigrants kicked out of Algeria told AFP correspondents Tuesday that dire detention conditions in the north African country left at least two of their group dead, describing hellish experiences at the hands of Algerian police.
Around 280 people returned to Guinea's capital Conakry on Monday after a two-week return journey via Mali, becoming the latest west African migrants to accuse the Algerian police of abusing them.
"We were treated very badly in Algeria," said their ad-hoc spokesman Aboubacar Sylla, who is in his 30s.
"We were rounded up like chickens at our workplaces or while sleeping and forced to head to south Algeria, before being locked in mini-containers where everyone was suffocating when the temperature reached 45 Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit)," Sylla said, referring to the small, windowless containers that held up to 35 people.
Another member of the group, 17-year-old Amadou Bailo Diallo, said that "two of our friends died because of the way we were being detained" on the way to the border of the north African country.
An AFP reporter met the group, which included youths as young as 16, at a centre where they were forced to sleep on the floor in the suburbs of Conakry after they arrived home.
They recounted humiliating experiences working in construction, agriculture, as domestic servants or as street hawkers. Some were visibly ill.
Algeria had on Saturday defended its treatment of a group of around 260 Malian migrants rounded up and deported to their country, dismissing charges of brutality.
The foreign ministry said Algeria, despite its own economic problems, granted legally registered migrants the same access to its health and education systems as Algerian nationals.
Algerian security forces had conducted an expulsion operation at the start of December "with respect for human rights", the foreign ministry said in a statement, although it acknowledged that "minimal but regrettable incidents" had taken place.
On their return to Bamako, the Malians accused Algerian forces of brutality, saying many of them had been injured and some killed, although there was no official confirmation of any deaths.
Algeria has expelled thousands of African migrants since the descent into chaos over the past five years of neighbouring Libya, a focal point for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, following a revolt that toppled leader Moamer Kadhafi.
The migrants are generally arrested in cities of northern Algeria bordering the sea and bussed to a reception centre in the south before being deported.