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Massinissa Benlakehal

Algerian immigrants detained in Libya after attempting Europe crossing

Algerians are among the tens of thousands crossing the sea to Europe [file photo-AFP]

Date of publication: 30 May, 2017

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Dozens of young Algerians are being held in Libyan detention centres, awaiting to be deported back to Algeria.
Scores of Moroccan and Algerian migrants are being held by Libyan authorities, after attempting to dangerous crossing to Europe from the North African country earlier this month.

Libyan coastguards picked up 400 Moroccans and 56 Algerians near Az-Zawiyah in an operation on 19 May.

The group had been waiting in a safe house in Libya for three weeks before setting sail with the people smugglers.

After being caught they were first held in the al-Nasr detention centre in Az-Zawiyah, before the Algerian group was split into two.

Twenty-two Algerians were transferred to Tripoli's Tariq Essika detention centre on Sunday evening, but the fate of the remaining migrants is still unknown.

One of the men said the group are waiting to be returned back to Algeria.

"We're fine for the moment," he told The New Arab via voice message. "They're [authorities] providing us with food, water and sleeping beds and we are waiting for the Algerian authorities to take us back home."

No official statement has been made by Algerian authorities but officials are said to be following up on the case.

Algerian officials met the director of the Tariq Essika detention centre in the Libyan capital on 29 May, which is run by Libya's anti-illegal immigration unit, Tripoli said this week.

"The Algerian consulate representative is registering the information of the illegal migrants... so they can obtain temporary travel documents to facilitate their return to Algeria by air," the unit said on social media.

Once deported, the group of 22 young people face heavy prison sentences for travelling to a conflict zone and illegal emigration which was criminalised by Algeria in 2009.

Would-be migrants caught in Algerian territorial waters also face heavy prison sentences and fines.

Around 1,200 migrants were intercepted at sea by the Algerian coastguard last year, according to the counry's Human Rights League, and a further 85 have been held this year.

A report by European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in 2014 counted nearly 13,000 Algerian picked up at European borders. 

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