May 26, 2024

Tunisian: Sub-Saharan migrants deported amid growing anti-migrant, anti-black sentiment

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Editorial

On 2 July, the Tunisian army and national guard forcefully deported 20 individuals from sub-Saharan Africa who were seeking asylum, leaving them stranded at the Tunisian-Libyan border.

The group has been subjected to various violations of their human rights, such as being detained without reason, experiencing violence, and being denied access to medical care. As a result, they have now been abandoned in a remote location near the official crossing point in southern Tunisia, close to Ben Guerdane. They have been abandoned in a place with scorching temperatures of almost 45 degrees Celsius, having no aid, food, money, or resources.

The condition is even more serious for the group’s pregnant women, with one of them being near her expected delivery date and having the symptom of bleeding.

The Tunisian government has been appealed by the Minority Rights Group to prioritize the safety and welfare of these migrants.

Allegedly, authorities apprehended these individuals on 1 July within a residence situated in the town of Jbeniana, located in the Sfax province. Before taking the 48 individuals into custody, law enforcement, national guards, and the military conducted a raid on the residence and subsequently transported them to the Jbeniana police station. Their identification was inspected and the details were documented.

According to reports, the police allegedly separated them into two distinct groups. 28 individuals were transported to Ben Guerdane, where they were transferred back and forth between national guard and military bases. The National Guard arrested eight individuals from the group, comprising of one minor, and deported the remaining 20 members.

They have experienced instances of violence and the majority of their mobile devices were confiscated and destroyed, with their money also being stolen. The women and a teenage girl, aged 16, experienced sexual harassment while they were in Tunisia before they were taken away.

MRG firmly requests that the Tunisian government carry out a thorough and open inquiry into accusations of migrant mistreatment, including violence, abuse, and sexual harassment committed by security personnel. The cessation of these arbitrary detentions is imperative. The whereabouts of the remaining 20 individuals evicted from the residence are currently undisclosed. In addition, it has been reported that these 48 individuals are not the sole migrants who have been sent back from Sfax. Online videos reveal several buses transporting migrants from the region to the border with Libya.

These unilateral and illicit deportations are in violation of Tunisia’s obligations under international law to safeguard migrants present on its coast. To put it differently, the violation of the principle of non-refoulement occurs when migrants in Libya are subjected to horrendous conditions and face the risk of being detained, which goes against the idea that individuals should not be sent back to a country where their life or freedom is endangered.

Migrants in Libya face a multitude of horrifying human rights abuses on a daily basis, encompassing torture, unjustifiable imprisonment, enslavement, sexual assault, homicide, severe overcrowding, and denial of basic needs such as food, water, and sanitation.

The occurrences on July 2 occurred in the midst of widespread racial discrimination against Black individuals within Tunisian society. In February 2023, President Kais Saied made racist, conspiratorial and xenophobic comments that sparked a surge in anti-Black and anti-migrant feelings. This atmosphere led to a significant increase in racist attacks, unjustified arrests, forced evictions, and sudden job losses. This situation has not improved or lessened.

Both Sub-Saharan migrants and Black Tunisians are experiencing a state of apprehension in their living conditions. Despite the fact that Tunisia has enacted laws against racial discrimination, it has not been successful in eradicating it. The blaming and targeting of migrants needs to stop. We emphasize the importance of the Tunisian government treating both refugees and its own citizens with fairness and respect.