ALGIERS - Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the Sahara Desert over the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, expelling them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under a blistering sun, the Associated Press (AP) reports adding that some never make it out alive.
The expelled migrants and refugees can be seen coming over the horizon by the hundreds, appearing at first as specks in the distance under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius.
In Niger, where the majority head, the lucky ones limp across a desolate 15km no-man's-land to the border village of Assamaka.
Others wander for days before a United Nations rescue squad can find them.
Untold numbers perish; nearly all of the more than two dozen survivors interviewed by The Associated Press news agency told of people in their groups, who simply vanished into the Sahara.
"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."
In a voice almost devoid of feeling, she recalled at least two nights in the open before her group was rescued, but said she lost track of time.
"I lost my son, my child," said Kamara, who is Liberian.
Another woman in her early twenties also went into labor and lost her baby, she said.
Algeria's mass expulsions have escalated since October 2017, as the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants and refugees going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain.
An EU spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that "sovereign countries" can expel migrants and refugees as long as they comply with international law.(FA)