Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Tunisian opposition calls out 'disgraceful' maltreatment of migrants

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, Head of Tunisia's main opposition coalition the National Salvation Front, on April 26, 2022.   -  
Copyright © africanews
FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Tunisian authorities are coming under heavy criticism following the expulsions of Sub-Saharan migrants.

On Friday (Jul. 07), the head of the country's main opposition coalition said the maltreatment of migrants 'a disgrace'.

Hundreds of migrants including children from sub-Saharan Africa have been left stranded in dire conditions in the south of Tunisia since being driven out of the port city of Sfax in the past week.

"What is happening in Tunisia at the moment, where we see human beings being rounded up, the only thing uniting them being the the colour of their skin, is a disgrace. This will go down in our history as a stain," Ahmed Nejib Chebbi said during a press conference in Tunis.

Human Rights Watch on Friday urged Tunisia to put an end to what it called the "collective expulsions" of black African migrants to a desert area near the Libyan border.

"Tunisian security forces have collectively expelled several hundred Black African migrants and asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women, since July 2, to a remote, militarised buffer zone at the Tunisia-Libya border," HRW said.

"Many reported violence by authorities during arrest or expulsion," the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.

HRW's Lauren Seibert urged Tunisia's government to "halt collective expulsions and urgently enable humanitarian access to the African migrants and asylum seekers already expelled to a dangerous area".

The group said migrants it interviewed alleged "several people died or were killed at the border area" between Sunday and Wednesday, "some shot and others beaten" by Tunisian security forces.

Tunisia has seen a rise in racially motivated attacks after President Saied in February linked undocumented migrants to violence and crime, alleging a "criminal plot" to change the country's demographic make-up.

The latest evictions come against a backdrop of violence following the funeral of a Tunisian man who was stabbed to death in Sfax in a brawl between locals and migrants.

"Public authorities are responsible because they are stirring up emotions and basic instincts that every human being feels, which are dormant and must be repressed, they are stirring those up and it is causing a great damage, a moral damage," Chebbi said.

"Not only that, Africans are now boycotting us and they are right to do so."

- 'No time to waste' -

Sfax, the North African country's second-largest city, is a departure point for many hoping to reach Europe by sea, often the Italian island of Lampedusa about 130 kilometres (80 miles) away.

HRW reported that migrants "said that Libyan men carrying machetes or other weapons had robbed some people and raped several women,", adding it was unable to independently verify the accounts.

HRW called on the government in Tunis to "investigate and hold to account security forces implicated in abuses".

"African migrants and asylum seekers, including children, are desperate to get out of the dangerous border zone and find food, medical care, and safety," Seibert said. "There is no time to waste."

Some migrants forcibly taken to the desert told AFP by phone on Thursday that hundreds, including women and children, had been abandoned there and left destitute.

Migrants reported being taken to an isolated beach near Libya's border with armed men from both countries on each side.

Posted by Africanews on Friday, July 7, 2023

Video footage shared on Friday (Jul. 07) by an African association shows dozens of visibly exhausted people, including mothers with babies, sitting or lying on the sand in the desert by the Mediterranean near the border with Libya.

One begs for help, saying: "We have nothing to eat. How many days can we survive?"

In Sfax itself, hundreds of migrants gathered in a park on Friday to demand "peace and security", an AFP journalist said.

"I no longer have a place to live and I'm not safe any more. I just want to go home to Burkina Faso," said Abdelatif Farati, 18, who has been in Tunisia with his four brothers for four years.

"Black lives matter," read the slogan on pieces of cardboard held up as placards.

Some Tunisians have expressed solidarity with the migrants, providing food and medical help to those now living on the street after being chased from their homes.

View more