Human Rights Watch has said that the EU should suspend migration control funding to Tunisian security forces until a human rights impact assessment has been carried out.
In July, Tunisian police and military rounded up black Africans in the country and dumped them on the border with Libya and Algeria. Two bodies were recovered and videos of people with broken ankles, begging for food and water, circulated online.
HRW documented abuses including beatings and the use of excessive force, theft of belongings and money and in some cases torture.
Despite this, the EU has offered Tunisia an aid package including over €100 million ($112.2 million) if Tunisia agrees to help stop migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean and heading for Europe and facilitate the return of migrants from the EU to Tunisia and back to their country of origin.
Yet there is no serious guarantee in the Memorandum of Understanding that Tunisia would prevent violations of asylum seekers and that this money would not fall into the hands of people responsible for the violations, the report states.
Since the deal was signed, critics have taken to social media to criticise Tunisian President Kais Saied, who not only called on security services to take “urgent measures” against the “hordes” of undocumented African migrants earlier this year in a racist speech, but has also jailed opponents and cracked down on freedom of expression.
It doesn't matter, as long as it keeps them away from Europe
This is what the EU "moral compass" has become, both across the Mediterranean and beyond https://t.co/qZKSmD54eC
— Claudio Francavilla (@ClaFrancavilla) July 16, 2023
Deeply disheartened witnessing Tunisia, the birthplace of the "Arab Spring" that called for freedom, democracy, and human rights, entering into such a deal with the EU, involving a payment of €1bn. Lives of humans should never be treated as political pawns. pic.twitter.com/zJC1p5Ew96
— Razan Ibraheem (رزان) (@RazanIRL) July 17, 2023
“Tunisian authorities have abused black African foreigners, fuelled racist and xenophobic attitudes, and forcibly returned people fleeing by boat who risk serious harm in Tunisia,” said refugee and migrant rights researcher at HRW Lauren Seibert.
“By funding security forces who commit abuses during migration control, the EU shares responsibility for the suffering of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia.”