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Human Rights activists raise concern on mass expulsion of migrants

Apr 17, 2012, 12:48 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Human rights activists currently attending the three-day NGOs Forum have raised serious concern about the recent mass expulsion of migrants from Mauritanian to Senegal and Mali; from Morocco to Algeria and displacement following the Malian crises.

They called on state parties to respect and uphold the provisions enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights,’ as well as international instruments on the rights of migrants and refugees.

It was organized on the sidelines of the human rights forum by Justice Without Borders for Migrants (JWBM) in partnership with the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) and the sub-committee on Migrant rights at the NGO forum.

Held under the theme: “human rights violation during refoulment and displacement of migrants in Africa,” the special session held within the framework of the 51st ordinary session of the African Commission brought together key human rights organistions, activists, as well as the media.

The goal of this special event is to highlight recent violations of migrants’ rights in specific African countries and transnational events underway; and explore legal means by which migrants in Africa can be effectively protected in the context of the Africa convention of human and people’s rights.

It further aimed to engaged the NGOs community and media on the means by which migrants can be effectively protected in the African context, as well as explore strategies to mainstream key issues among all stakeholders, including the working group on refugees, displaced persons and migrants and the members of the African Commission.

Sara Prestianni, international coordinator of justice without borders for migrants, who briefly spoke at the event said the recent mass expulsion of sub Saharan African migrants from Mauritania to Senegal will be discussed.

She feel worried that human rights violations increase during refoulment and expulsion of African migrants, adding that the forum will seek to further protect the rights of migrants.

Four human rights defenders and advocates took part in the forum.

Hannah Forster, the Executive Director of the ACDHRS said the recent happenings in Mali with the coup and Tuareg rebellion caused mass displacement and migration of many Malians to some African countries.

First to share his experience and ideas was the Mr. Brahima Koni, the chairman of the international union of human rights and member of the board of the ACDHRS, whose discussion was entirely base on the Malian crises  and the situation of migrants in northern Mali.

“The problem confronting Mali right now is the issue of displaced persons. Since the beginning of the conflict, there have been many displaced peoples within Mali and from Mali to other countries like Burkina Faso; Niger and Mauritanian. But the most alarming thing is the condition the migrants found themselves”, he said.

This displacement follows violations of human rights in Gidawo, Goa, and Timbuktu, including rape; and everything was destroyed - banks, stores and state services. Properties were looted and people had difficulties in moving.

He added that the problem was aggravated by two factors, and that they were informed during the capture of Goa, that the MNLA told people to leave within four days or else face execution.

“In Timbuktu where Sharia law was instituted, there were many abuses which also resulted in displacement, with 90,000 people leaving Mali to go south wards, and over 200,000 people left Mali to other countries, especially in Mauritania, and Bukina-Faso.”

He said the migrant’s fundamental rights have been violated, and schooling of many children prevented due to the conflict.

He called for intervention in order to help these people in distress.

Niane Yousouf, advocate and lawyer of a human rights organization in Mauritania (ANDH) also addressed the forum on situation in Mauritanian, saying that migrants in Mauritanian face difficulties to cross from Mauritania to Europe.

The migration law and policy in Mauritian is harsh, which gives rise to arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Even some Mauritanians are victims of the illegal arrests, especially the black Mauritanians.

He said the detentions are arbitrary and illegal because Mauritania despite not being a member of ECOWAS signed the Africa charter and protocol with Senegal, Mali, The Gambia and other West African countries.

Momodou Konate, legal adviser of the Malian Association of Expelled people (AME) and member of JSFM said massive deportation of migrants are very frequent in Mauritanian, and that this was not the first time it has happened.

“In 2010, we led a joint mission to Mali- Mauritanian border, and the mission wrote an indicting report against Mali and Mauritania for massive deportation and Mali leaving stranded refugees who arrive in their country.

He said these deportations are against the African Charter, and urged the government to maintain the position of the charter and stop violating it.

Other panelists included the representative of the Morocco based group of anti-racism for the defense of foreigners and migrants, Stephane Julinet; and Ousmane Diana president of Justice without Border for migrants and Aboubaccy Mbods, representative of West African Network of Human rights Defenders and a member of JSFM, who all spoke at the event.

They accused governments of not protecting the rights of migrants, saying that governments must uphold the principles of the African Charter.

For the Moroccan representative, abuse of migrants is still a case in Morocco, and that the government will at times dump the migrants in the border with Algerian, who suffer in camps.