Algerian authorities rounded up about 600 illegal African migrants living near the Moroccan border and sent them to southern Algeria with plans to deport them, Algerian newspapers reported Monday.
The operation, which began Saturday night, all but shut down a huge camp of refugees living illegally outside the town of Maghnia, newspapers reported.
The Algerian move comes in response to concerns by Moroccan authorities who have accused Algeria of doing nothing to stop immigrants from crossing the border into Morocco in hopes of reaching Spain. There has been no official comment on the mass deportation.
The situation grew tense several months earlier as Morocco deported more than 2,500 migrants trying to reach two Spanish enclaves in the country's north. Five people were shot to death while trying to cross a barbed-wire fence between Morocco and Spanish territory. Six more died in clashes with Moroccan security forces.
The newspaper L'Expression said the migrants were counted, examined by doctors and then put aboard buses for Tlemcen airport. They were then flown to the region of Adrar, 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Algiers to be sent to their home countries. The paper said that 79 people who demanded political refugee status stayed behind while others escaped.
The migrants had been living in a makeshift village on the banks of the Oued Djordi outside Maghnia, some for years. There was no drinkable water and migrants slept in tents or homes made from debris. Morocco and other countries have said the international community must join in helping resolve the problem of illegal immigration, AP reports.