ALGIERS: Fourteen people, including 12 Syrian migrants, have been found dead in Algeria’s southern desert province of Illizi, while five others remain missing, an official from the Syrian embassy in Algeria said on Monday.

Search efforts to find the other five were still underway, said Bassem Farroukh, head of irregular migration at the Syrian embassy in Algeria.

“The victims came from Libya on Tuesday,” he added. “They were found dead on Saturday after they got lost in the desert.” The migrants were found by the Search and Rescue Association, an NGO that specialises in rescuing people lost in the Algerian desert.

The association said it had identified the dead as two Algerians and 12 Syrians, including a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old.

Farroukh blamed Libyan authorities, whom he said expelled the migrants and “pushed them to flee towards Algeria.” “We will see other Syrians leaving Libya in the same manner towards Algeria and I am afraid we must prepare ourselves for more disasters,” he said.

In 2016, 22 Syrians got lost in the Algerian desert after entering from neighbouring Niger before being rescued by the Algerian army.

Many Syrians, as well as irregular migrants from other countries, come to North Africa in the hopes of making the dangerous sea crossing of the Mediterranean to Western Europe.

Syria remains the world’s largest displacement crisis, with 13.8 million people forcibly displaced inside and outside the country, according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR.

The country has been ravaged by war since 2011, when intense clashes between President Bashar al-Assad’s troops cracked down violently on opposition groups amid the Arab Spring uprisings.

The war has killed more than half a million people and forced millions to flee their homes as Syria’s economy and infrastructure suffered severe damage.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2024

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