Statement by Refugees International:
“Over the last few days, Tunisian authorities have violently arrested, transported, and expelled hundreds of Black migrants and asylum seekers from several African countries to a militarized desert “no man’s land” at the Tunisia-Libya border, where they have been subjected to further attacks. Men, women, and children—many of whom are gravely injured—are currently stranded with limited access to aid, food, or medical assistance, and already several deaths have been reported. Some of the expelled people were registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Tunisia, and some have legal status in Tunisia. Forced expulsions are also occurring at the Tunisia-Algeria border.
These expulsions, which violate the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as the UN Refugee Convention and other international treaties, follow months of attacks against Black Africans spurred by racist and xenophobic conspiracy theories promoted most prominently by Tunisian President Kais Saeid. In the face of this violence, UNHCR has emphasized the limited options for support within Tunisia and resettlement from Tunisia. And the EU has continued negotiations to provide the Tunisian government with millions of euros to support its migration control efforts—given Tunisia has become the main launch point for migration across the Mediterranean.
Refugees International calls on the U.S. government, the EU, and EU member states to condemn the forced expulsions by the Tunisian security services and suspend security assistance to Tunisia until further expulsions cease and the abuses that occurred during the recent expulsions are investigated. Both the EU and the U.S. government should work with the UN and other humanitarian organizations to provide aid to people stranded and in imminent danger at the Libyan and Algerian borders. Expelled migrants and asylum seekers should be readmitted to Tunisia under the protection of the UN. IOM centers in the south should be properly resourced to provide those readmitted with medical attention and emergency aid and properly staffed by UNHCR to help identify those with protection claims.
More broadly, recent actions by the Tunisian government and security services clearly demonstrate that Tunisia is not a safe third country. EU member states should therefore suspend returns of migrants to Tunisia and should consider accepting refugees and those abused by Tunisian forces for resettlement.”
To schedule an interview, contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at email@example.com.