Tunisia: hundreds of migrants in distress after being driven out of the city of Sfax

In Sfax, eastern Tunisia, hundreds of migrants are in a situation of extreme distress on Friday after being chased from their homes and transported to desert areas by the Tunisian authorities, where they will be handed over to their fate. The NGO Human Rights Watch has called on Tunisia to stop these “collective expulsions”.

The situation continues to deteriorate in Sfax, Tunisia. The human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Friday, July 7, for Tunisia to put an end to the “collective expulsions” of African migrants in the desert, where they are abandoned to their fate.

Hundreds of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are in a very precarious situation in a desert area in southern Tunisia, near the Libyan border, after being expelled in recent days from the city of Sfax (Middle East) amid strong tensions with the local population demanding their departure, according to testimonies gathered by AFP.

A wave of violence fell on these migrants on Tuesday and Wednesday after one of them killed a resident during a fight.

The incident fueled the fire in a city whose residents expressed their annoyance at the presence of irregular migrants, many of whom settle there and await an illegal crossing to Italy aboard makeshift boats.

“Tunisian security forces have collectively expelled several hundred black African migrants and asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women, since July 2, 2023, to a remote and militarized buffer zone on the border between Tunisia and Tunisia. Libya,” HRW said in a statement.

“Many people have reported violence by the authorities during their arrest or deportation,” the NGO added.

She called on the Tunisian government to “put an end to collective expulsions and immediately allow humanitarian access” to these people, who have “little food and no medical care,” Lauren Seibert said in the press release. , refugee rights researcher at HRW.

The NGO also called on Tunisia to “investigate the security forces involved in the abuses and bring them to justice”.

“African migrants and asylum seekers, including children, are desperate to get out of the dangerous border area and find food, medical care and safety,” added Lauren Seibert. “There is no time to lose.”

Women and children among migrants

Migrants deported to the desert told AFP by telephone on Thursday that hundreds of them, including women and children, were left there in utter destitution.

In a video shared on Friday by an African association, we can see a few dozen refugees, presented as Ivorians and Malians for the most part, sitting or lying on the sand, visibly exhausted, in a desert area bordered by the Mediterranean near the Libyan limit…

Some had their heads covered with a hat or a piece of cloth to protect themselves from the sun. Women had babies on their laps.

“We have nothing to eat, how many days will we survive?”, one of them asks, begging for help.

On Friday, hundreds of African migrants gathered in a park in the center of Sfax, demanding “peace and security”, noted an AFP correspondent at the scene.

“I no longer have (a place) to live, I’m no longer safe, I just want to go back to my home in Burkina Faso,” said Abdelatif Farati, an 18-year-old, in Tunisia with his four brothers since. four years.

“Black Lives Matter,” read a piece of cardboard some of them held up.

Tunisians expressed their solidarity with these migrants by providing food and medical aid to those who found themselves on the streets after being driven from their homes in Sfax.

An increasingly openly xenophobic discourse against these migrants has spread since Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed condemned illegal immigration in February, presenting it as a demographic threat to his country.

According to statistics cited by the media, Tunisia has around 21,000 sub-Saharan Africans, a third of whom are in an irregular situation.

A large number of these migrants come to Tunisia and then try to reach Europe by sea, landing clandestinely on Italian shores.


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