March 16 (EUROPA PRESS) –
Thousands of migrants abandoned in the desert in northern Niger after being deported by Algeria are in the town of Assamaka without shelter or health care, as denounced on Thursday by the non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has demanded the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to provide them with immediate protection.
The organization has detailed that, between January 11 and March 3, about 4,675 migrants arrived on foot in Assamaka, located in the Agadez region, after being deported by Algeria and stranded in the desert. However, less than 15 percent of these people have managed to access shelter or protection upon arrival in the city.
Thus, he explained that the Assamaka Integrated Health Center, supported by MSF, is “overflowing”. “The situation is worrying,” said the MSF coordinator in Agadez, Schemssa Kimana. “The transit center is full and this has meant that most of the people who have recently arrived in Assamaka have settled there,” she added.
Kimana has reported that there are people sleeping in all areas of the facilities, while some have set up makeshift shelters at the entrance or in the courtyard while others camp in front of the maternity hospital, on the roof of the building or in the waste area. According to MSF staff, there is no precedent for such a difficult situation in Assamaka.
“The situation has become an emergency in which measures must be taken immediately. It is unsustainable that no one continues to live in these conditions,” he says. Temperatures in this town can reach 48 degrees Celsius, so people seek refuge from the heat anywhere, which has caused some to sleep in unhygienic areas such as garbage dumps.
In this sense, the general coordinator of MSF in Niger, Jamal Mrrouch, has emphasized that “this is an unprecedented situation that requires an urgent humanitarian response from ECOWAS and its member states, where the majority of of these people.” “As a medical-humanitarian organization, it is our duty to highlight the flagrant lack of assistance to migrant men, women, boys and girls who have been abandoned to their fate, in terribly precarious conditions, in the Assamaka desert. The risks that This situation entails for their health and safety are evident,” he warned.
A Cameroonian migrant who is in the city has conveyed to the MSF teams his “concern” that “nobody gives an answer” about when they will return to their countries of origin. “We don’t know when we will leave Assamaka. It’s like being in an open-air prison. The little we get to eat is very poorly prepared and has more sand than food,” he recounted.
“It makes us sick and gives us diarrhea and stomach aches. The rations are ridiculous. We live in the sheds of the health center, which were built for patients during COVID. During the night, the police patrol the town to catch whoever scattered around there and send him back to the health center”, this migrant pointed out.
MSF has highlighted that it has been working in the Agadez region since 2017, where its teams distribute basic necessities and provide support to the Integrated Health Center so that it can offer free primary care consultations and refer critical cases to the city of Agadez. which is several hundred kilometers from Assamaka. It also offers logistical support to the center.