ABIDJAN: Around 1,500 economic migrants have been taken from Algeria to Niger in recent days by the UN's migration agency, its Niamey chief said on Thursday.
Giuseppe Loprete from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told AFP around "600 Cameroonians, two large groups of Malians and Guineans" as well as nationals from other African countries were taken to Agadez, northern Niger's main city.
The economic migrants were either stranded in the middle of the desert at Assamaka -- in Niger next to the Algeria border -- after being turned back at the frontier or were deported forcibly after entering the country.
They are now being cared for in Agadez by IOM who have provided tents, food and care, according to Loprete.
Around 3,000 migrants are currently housed at the Agadez centre, although its capacity is just 1,000. The town governor has made land available for the overspill.
Since the beginning of the year, the IOM has already conducted "18 rescue operations" at the Algerian border, and taken back "3,000 people," Loprete said.
Registration of the migrants is under way by IOM teams to organise repatriation to their countries of origin, but it is not easy because 60 percent of migrants do not have papers.