Syrian refugees trapped on Algerian-Moroccan border in abysmal conditions: HRW

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Young Syrian refugees stand in dusty ground in Turkey after fleeing war-torn homeland. File photo

ARA News

Algerian and Moroccan border authorities appear to be blocking two groups of Syrian asylum seekers from leaving the border area near the Moroccan city of Figuig, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

The Syrians, including women and children, have been trapped there since April 18, 2017, in abysmal conditions, Human Rights Watch said.

According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Morocco, the two groups total 55 people, including 20 women, 2 of them in advanced states of pregnancy, and 22 children. One woman gave birth in the border area on the evening of April 23. It is unclear whether she had medical assistance.

“Authorities in both countries should step up to share responsibility, consider claims for protection based on the preference of the Syrian asylum seekers, and ensure that all the asylum seekers have access to necessary services, especially pregnant and breast-feeding women,” HRW said.

“While Algerian and Moroccan authorities squabble over which country should take the Syrians, men, women, and children are trapped in a desert-like area near the border between them, sleeping in the open and unable to apply for asylum,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa executive director at Human Rights Watch.

Moroccan authorities have indicated that they will grant entry visas to nine of the Syrians who have relatives living legally in Morocco, a spokesperson for UNHCR told Human Rights Watch on May 3.

The two groups arrived at the border area after leaving Syria and traveling through Libya and Algeria. According to the Kurdish news website Yekiti media, most of them are Kurds from the Kurdish city of Kobani.

Moroccan authorities publicly accused Algeria of deporting the asylum seekers to Morocco. The Algerian Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, saying they were aimed at “harming Algeria,” yet did not offer another version of events.

One of the Syrian asylum seekers, who spoke with Human Rights Watch on April 24, said that her group had left Algeria with guidance from local people around April 17. However, on April 18, Moroccan security forces intercepted them and pushed them back toward Algeria.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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