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Calls to rescue migrants after Tunisia transfers them to Libya, Algeria borders

July 11, 2023 at 11:37 am

Irregular migrants are seen as operation carried out by the Tunisian National Guard against African irregular migrants who want to reach Europe illegally via the Mediterranean Sea, off the city of Sfax in the south of Tunisia on October 28, 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

A human rights organisation yesterday called on the Tunisian government to intervene urgently to help dozens of migrants who were expelled from the city of Sfax, in the southeast of the country, and transferred to border areas with Libya and Algeria.

In a statement, the Bayti organisation said human rights defenders, non-governmental organisations and government institutions must “coordinate efforts and pool resources” to take care of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

The organisation continued: “For days, we have been witnessing in the Sfax region, where there are migrants who were abandoned and are living under real threat and pursuit that reached the point of their expulsion and deportation to the outskirts of the desert.”

Last week, Sfax witnessed bloody clashes between immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries and the people of the city, which led to the death of a Tunisian citizen. The authorities evacuated the migrants by bus and transported them to the border areas with Libya and Algeria.

At least 450 migrants gathered in a military buffer zone between Tunisia and Libya near the Ras Jedir area, according to media and NGOs. Some 260 of them were evacuated to other Tunisian cities, including Medenine, Tataouine and Gabes. About a dozen others were taken to a hospital in Ben Guerdane.

On the other hand, a source at the Mali embassy told AFP that the mission “received ten Malians who fled Sfax in recent days, one of whom suffered a broken arm while trying to flee from a group of residents.”

A delegation from the Tunisian Red Crescent organisation took some water and food to the migrants in the past few days, and provided aid to the wounded, according to testimonies of migrants.

In a statement on Monday, Refugee Relief International condemned the “violent arrests and forced expulsion of hundreds of black African migrants,” stressing that some of them are “registered with the UNHCR or have legal status in Tunisia.”

The World Organisation Against Torture in Tunisia announced yesterday that it called on the United Nations Committee against Torture to denounce the case of “a migrant from sub-Saharan Africa who was deported to the border between Tunisia and Libya on July 2,” after he was arrested without reason, and beaten with an iron rod in security centres in Ben Guerdane.

Hate speech towards irregular migrants has spread since Tunisian President Kais Saied condemned irregular migration in February, saying they are a demographic threat to the country.

READ: Tunisia, Italy interior ministers discuss irregular immigration