Human Rights Watch urges Tunisia to stop expelling migrants to desert
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.
Hundreds of migrants 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.
It comes against a backdrop of violence after the funeral of a 41-year-old Tunisian man who was stabbed to death in Sfax on Monday, in a brawl between Tunisians and migrants.
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.
“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.
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“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.
“They also said that Libyan men carrying machetes or other weapons had robbed some people and raped several women,” HRW reported, adding it was unable to independently confirm 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.”
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Tunisia has seen a rise in racially motivated attacks after President Kais Saied in February accused “hordes” of undocumented migrants of bringing violence and alleging a “criminal plot” to change the country’s demographic make-up.