Police watch as locals attack migrants in Algeria
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Dozens of migrants were injured last Friday when they were attacked by locals in the town of Béchar, some 1,000 kilometres south of the Algerian capital, Algiers. Our Observer says that despite the presence of police officers, it was several hours before they did anything to stop the violence.
Towards midday on Friday, March 25, dozens of people from Béchar began throwing rocks at an abandoned shopping centre where a group of migrants were living. The violence kicked off after a local resident accused one of the migrants of trying to rape a little girl. But no crime was ever reported to police officers, and according to a local journalist covering the story, no one has pressed charges for attempted rape in any of the town's police stations.
Most of the sub-Saharan migrants living in Béchar arrived in the city fairly recently from Mali, Gabon, Senegal and Cameroon.
The attack lasted for a few hours before the migrants were evacuated by security forces to neighbouring cities including Oran, Adrar and Tamanrasset, to the south.This footage was filmed by a Cameroonian migrant during the clashes. Shots can be heard and men can be seen throwing rocks at the migrants. The migrants respond by throwing rocks back.
"The police were there, but it was hours before they actually put a stop to the violence"Fofana (not his real name) had been living for several months with his wife in Béchar's abandoned shopping centre.
Everything began around 2pm. More than a hundred local residents turned up at the shopping centre where we were living and began throwing both rocks and objects that they had set on fire. The police were there, but it was hours before they actually intervened.
Another terrified migrant also filmed the scene: "Look how many of them there are. The police aren't doing anything."
At around 9pm, the police finally began trying to evacuate the women and children. They negotiated with the assailants, but they weren't having any of it, and continued attacking us. So we responded in turn by throwing rocks at them.
Then, security forces started firing tear gas at us. Finally, around 3am, they evacuated us from the beseiged building and took us all to the hospital.
When we got there, we found buses waiting to take us to Tamanrasset. I personally refused because it's a dangerous place to go as it is close to the Malian border. So, on Saturday morning, my wife, my friends and I bought bus tickets to Oran.
During the attack, projectiles were raining down on the shopping centre's first floor and we had to leave all our belongings and take shelter on the second floor. When we were being evacuated, we saw that all of our belongings had been stolen.
The Algerian Human Rights League says it has opened a 'serious' and 'impartial' investigation into the attack and were keen to hunt down those responsible. Contacted by FRANCE 24, the organisation's secretary general, Khlelil Abdoulmoumène, said he was outraged:
This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. Even if one of the migrants had carried out some kind of aggression on a little girl, this attack still would not have been justified.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time sub-Saharan Africans have been the victims of such attacks. When a man from Niger stabbed an Algerian, people from the town of Ouergla in southern Algeria carried out revenge attacks on a group of migrants who were there to work on construction sites. After a day of violent clashes, local authorities ended up forcing the migrants out of town. Across Algeria, we're seeing an increase in racist acts against sub-Saharan Africans.