Despite the best effort of Western countries to contain migrants and refugees from countries where war, rampant violence, oppression, and hunger have sent people fleeing on foot any which way, the situation continues.
Increasingly hardline policies don’t seem to be stopping the movement of people so much as resulting in situations that have resulted in migrants and refugees, already suffering trauma, being either abandoned in the middle of deserts or trapped either in Kafkaesque situations or literally, at sea.
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Algeria has been expelling thousands of migrants and refugees — up to 13,000 — into the Sahara desert, in 118-degree heat,
The unwanted, which include pregnant women and children, are being stranded without food and water, told to find their to way Niger, on Algeria’s southeast border, with the nearest source of water being nearly 20 miles away. Survivors told the AP that “Women were lying dead… Other people got missing in the desert because they didn’t know the way.”
They spoke of giving birth to babies who had not survived and were buried in shallow graves in the middle of nowhere, of people giving up and just sitting down to die, of disoriented people wandering off, never to be seen again.
Algeria accelerated its deportations after the European Union started pressuring North African countries to stop migrants from boarding boats and heading to its shores in 2017, and around the time when it struck a deal with Libya, paying militia to detain migrants in massive camps.
Even though the policy has resulted in mass abuses in Libya (where open slave markets now exist), and deaths in Sahara, where Algeria expels migrants, sometimes at gunpoint, the E.U. maintains there is little it can do stop what the U.N. has criticized as inhuman and degrading treatment of the migrants.
Over the weekend, nearly 1,000 migrants were rescued by the Libyan coast guard and taken back to Tripoli, where they have almost zero protections.
An spokesperson told the AP that Algeria, like all sovereign countries can kick people out as long as it’s within the bounds of international law.
Then again, the E.U. is having a hard time getting its own states to agree on how to handle refugees — or even accept their asylum applications — at their own borders.
Italy and Malta on Sunday rejected two boats holding roughly 350 migrants, leaving the boats to scramble, looking for a port of safety.
According to CNN, Malta won’t let a ship that rescues anyone in Libyan waters to dock at its ports, while Italy’s new right-wing deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, has a staunchly anti-immigrant stance.
Both Malta and Italy refused to take over 600 migrants on another rescue ship earlier this month. Spain allowed the ship to dock there, something Salvini saw as a victory.
Last week, he warned another Dutch rescue ship carrying around 200 migrants that it should take its “human load” to the Netherlands instead.
The operators of the ship responded via Twitter:
Dear @matteosalvinimi, we have no meat on board, but humans. We cordially invite you to convince yourself that it is people we have saved from drowning. Come here, you are welcome! pic.twitter.com/vPhLV4M2jO
— MISSION LIFELINE (@SEENOTRETTUNG) June 24, 2018
Closer to home, President Donald Trump continues to create confusion for not only Central American migrants coming the United States hoping to apply for asylum here, but also for officials who seem to not yet have procedures to keep up with Trump’s erratic directives.
President Trump’s policy in immigration has been pinballing from one tactic to another: From banning Muslim refugees to separating families crossing the border to offering to reunite them if they volunteer to be deported and now, seeking to prevent them from any access to due process.
The net result: Thousands of children currently separated from their parents are scattered across several states. Some of their parents remain in detention in the United States, others deported, and authorities are in such a fix as to how to reunite them that a DNA-testing company has offered its services to try and ensure that children are sent back to the right parents.