News Comment - UNHCR appeals for access to refugees on Algeria-Niger border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about the safety of vulnerable individuals from Syria, Yemen and Palestine who are reportedly stranded at Algeria’s southern border with Niger.

UNHCR received information that the group, comprising some 120 Syrian, Palestinian and Yemeni individuals, were detained at the Tamanrasset Centre in southern Algeria before being taken to an area near the Guezzam border post on 26 December.

Some of the individuals in this group are known to UNHCR as registered refugees who have fled conflict and persecution or claim to have attempted to seek international protection in Algeria.

According to information made available to UNHCR, 20 individuals from this group currently remain stranded in the desert, three kilometres from the Guezzam border post where they are exposed to the elements. The other 100 individuals who were taken to the border are unaccounted for.

UNHCR is in contact with the Algerian authorities regarding this incident and advocating for access to assess their protection needs. However, in light of media reports in Algeria suggesting that these people were moved to the border with the agreement of UNHCR we wish to clarify that UNHCR has had no such involvement.

Given the urgent humanitarian imperative in providing assistance to those stranded, UNHCR is appealing to the Algerian authorities for access to those individuals, to address humanitarian needs and to identify those in need of international protection and to ensure their safety.

Recognising the challenges faced by Algeria in responding to mixed movements, UNHCR maintains regular communication with the authorities to address the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, who can be subject to arrest and removal.

Algeria has opened its doors to some 50,000 Syrian refugees who have sought safety in the country and we appeal to the authorities to extend this hospitality to those who need it.

While border management remains a sovereign prerogative of all governments, UNHCR reiterates that border security and international protection are not mutually exclusive.

UNHCR underscores that any person whose life is at risk in their country of origin must be able to access territory and seek asylum in a safe country and each asylum request should be considered individually.

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