Algeria on Saturday defended its treatment of a group of around 260 Malian migrants rounded up and deported to their country, dismissing charges of brutality.
Algerian security forces conducted the operation at the start of December “with respect for human rights”, the foreign ministry said in a statement, although it acknowledged that “minimal but regrettable incidents” had taken place.
The operation, supervised by the Algerian Red Crescent, had been carried out with “exemplary professionalism” that had “contained” the incidents.
On their return to Bamako, members of the group accused Algerian forces of brutality, saying many Malians had been injured and some of them killed, although there was no official confirmation of any deaths.
The deportations were decided as a “last resort”, the ministry said, following “acts of violence and physical aggression” by Malian migrants in Algiers and other parts of the country.
The foreign ministry said Algeria, despite its own economic problems, granted legally registered migrants the same access to its health and education systems as Algerian nationals.
A Malian official in charge of Malians who live abroad, Issa Sacko, has said Bamako would seek an inquiry into the alleged deaths, and an Amnesty International official also called for a probe.
Algeria has expelled thousands of African migrants since the descent into chaos over the past five years of Libya, a focal point for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, following a revolt that toppled leader Moamer Kadhafi.
The migrants are generally arrested in cities of northern Algeria bordering the sea and bused to a reception centre in the south before being deported.