NIAMEY - Algeria must immediately stop collective expulsions of African migrants across its border with Niger, a UN report said, after rights groups accused Algiers of rounding up and expelling thousands of people to the desert.
Algeria has sent around 35,600 Nigeriens back to Niger since 2014, according to International Organisation for Migration (IOM) figures cited in the report, including more than 12,000 since the start of the year.
"These collective expulsions from Algeria to Niger are in utter violation of international law," Felipe Gonzalez Morales, UN special rapporteur on human rights for migrants, said in the report.
"I call on the government of Algeria to abide by its international obligation and halt with immediate effect all collective expulsions of migrants to Niger."
The North African state has denied abandoning migrants in desolate border areas but said it faces an influx of sub-Saharan Africans crossing over from Mali and Niger.
Rounded up at night
Niger is a major trafficking route for migrants trying to reach Europe, with the EU estimating 90 percent of West African migrants pass through the country before moving on to Algeria, Libya or elsewhere.
Sub-Saharan migrants have regularly been rescued from the Niger desert -- or their bodies discovered -- after attempting to cross in soaring temperatures with little food or water.
The UN report said migrants are rounded up from their homes in Algeria often at night without having time to get dressed, or collect their belongings or money.
Some of them have lived and worked in the country for years with children going to local schools, it said.
Others are beaten and held at police stations before being transported by bus to the border, where they are forced to walk through the desert to the nearest town, the report added.
Algeria says it faces "unfounded criticism" and its efforts have stopped thousands of migrants crossing its territory in their attempts to reach Europe.
Morales in the report also calls on Niger to reform its anti-trafficking law, saying it penalised migrants as well as smugglers.