Algiers: Algeria has begun repatriating thousands of illegal workers to Niger in an operation likely to last several months, the Algerian Red Crescent (CRA) said on Monday.
A first group of 318 arrived at a reception centre on Saturday in the main city in southern Algeria, Tamanrasset, Saida Benhabyles of the CRA told AFP.
She said they would then be taken on to Agadez in northern Niger.
Benhabyles said most were women and children "who have suffered terribly, exploited by criminal networks who robbed them of everything".
Niger Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, speaking in parliament last month, had urged Algiers to send home people from his country "who number 3,000, are jobless, and unfortunately live by begging".
Since Libya descended into chaos in its 2011 uprising, Algeria has become the North African destination of choice for sub-Saharans seeking a better life on the continent.
Benhabyles said Algeria had the logistics to undertake the repatriation, but added that the process was not sustainable.
She appealed for UN and international help to help create micro-projects enabling potential illegal migrants to stay and work in their home countries.
Niger, one of the world`s poorest nations, has the planet`s highest birthrate averaging 7.6 children per woman.
Emigration is massive.
In October last year, 92 migrants from Niger -- again mostly women and children -- died of thirst while crossing the desert to try to reach Algeria.