In the footsteps of Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Belhireche and Fayçal Hamrouche, the three Algerian migrants who died on rails in the Basque Country

A dull ringing announces the passage of a train. In Oum Drou, the inhabitants live to the rhythm of the railway which crosses their commune located ten kilometers from the city of Chlef, in western Algeria. Here, the rails are a few meters from the houses and children are used to walking along or crossing them to get to school. So for Zohra, in his forties, it is unthinkable that her son, Mohamed Kamel, knowingly fell asleep on a railway line.

This 21-year-old young Algerian died on Tuesday, October 12, thousands of kilometers from his home after a long journey that took him from Algeria to the Basque Country. The drama took place in Ciboure (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), around 5 a.m., when a TER from Hendaye struck four Algerian migrants who were lying on the rails. Three of them died, while Mourad (given name has been changed), 28, survived severe injuries to his head, pelvis and leg. “He is currently in a nursing home in the south-west of France and is having difficulty walking again”, indicates Marie Cosnay, writer, very committed in the reception of the migrants and who participated in the identification of the bodies.

The survivor, originally from the wilaya of Boumerdes, east of Algiers, lodged a complaint against X on December 6 with the public prosecutor of Bayonne for “manslaughter”, “endangering the life of others ”,“ unintentional injury ”and“ administration of harmful substances ”. Relatives of Mohamed Kamel and Fayçal Hamrouche, another victim, have decided to join the proceedings. Everyone wants to understand what may have happened that night.

“Misery” as a cause of departure

The four harraga, named after undocumented migrants attempting to cross to Europe, arrived in Spain in different boats in August and early September. “He never spoke of emigrating. It was only when he arrived that he called us and asked us to forgive him for having left ”, breathes Zohra, the mother of Mohamed Kamel. The young man, who had left school at 15, worked here and there and lived in the family home where several generations live together. Her father, a farmer, scrolls through some photos on his phone. On one of them, we see Mohamed on a scooter: he had sold it to pay for his trip, his parents will learn later.

Read also More and more Algerians are joining Spain at the risk of their lives

A few hours before crossing the Franco-Spanish border, he had met Ahmed Belhireche, another 41-year-old victim, who had also embarked from the coasts of Ténès, a town on the Algerian coast located north of Chlef. “His boat broke down, they stayed three days at sea and then were rescued by the Spanish coast guards”, explains Jabria, his widow. Her husband had told her about his plan a month before she left in August. She tried to dissuade him but ” It’s misery “ who pushed him to leave, she says.

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In the footsteps of Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Belhireche and Fayçal Hamrouche, the three Algerian migrants who died on rails in the Basque Country

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