Tunisian Security Forces Expelling Black African Migrants And Asylum Seekers To Libya
Hundreds of black African asylum seekers and migrants are being pushed back by the Tunisian security forces. Human Rights Watch reports that since July, 2023 hundreds of asylum seekers, migrants even pregnant women are being expelled to a remote, militarized buffer zone at the Tunisia-Libya border. These Africans are being expelled without due process, whilst reports of violence by the Tunisian authorities emerged during the arrests or expulsions.
The Human Rights Watch had interviewed five people expelled between July 2 and 6. These migrants including an Ivorian asylum seeker and four migrants: two Ivorian men, a Cameroonian man, and a 16-year-old Cameroonian girl. Names of the interviewees are not disclosed for their protection. They said that they were unable to provide an exact number but roughly Tunisian authorities had expelled between 500 and 700 people since July 2 to the border area, around 35 kilometres east of the town Ben Guerdane. Those being expelled arrived in at least four different groups, ranging in size.
Lauren Seibert, a refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch said, “The Tunisian government should halt collective expulsions and urgently enable humanitarian access to the African migrants and asylum seekers already expelled to a dangerous area at the Tunisia-Libya border, with little food and no medical assistance. Not only is it unconscionable to abuse people and abandon them in the desert, but collective expulsions violate international law.”
Those being expelled were mainly of various African nationalities including Ivorian, Cameroonian, Malian, Guinean, Chadian, Sudanese, Senegalese, and others. These people included at least 29 children and three pregnant women, as reported by the interviewees. Furthermore, at least six expelled people were asylum seekers registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the interviewees said while at least two adults had consular cards identifying them as students in Tunisia.
The interviewees said that they had been arrested in raids by te police, national guard, or military in and near Sfax, which is a port city southeast of the capital, Tunis. They were later hurriedly transported to by the National guard and military forces to Ben Guerdane, from there to the Libyan border, where they were trapped in what they described as a buffer zone from which they could neither enter Libya nor return to Tunisia.