Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa share harrowing tales of being forced back to desolate desert regions, where some have tragically perished from thirst while attempting to cross into Tunisia, a small country in North Africa. As the European Union plans to provide Tunisia with €1 billion in a migration deal, human rights organizations urge Brussels to address allegations that Tunisian authorities are pushing people back to uninhabited border areas, often with fatal outcomes.
Tunisian Authorities’ Actions
Official sources indicate that Tunisian authorities have relocated over 4,000 people in July alone to military buffer zones at the borders with Libya and Algeria.
An anonymous official from an intergovernmental organization reported, “About 1,200 people were pushed back to the Libyan border in the first week of July alone.”
Dying of Thirst
By late August, the same source revealed that they knew of seven individuals who had succumbed to thirst after being pushed back.
An NGO working with refugees estimates the number to be between 50 and 70, although this figure could not be independently verified.
Contrary to previous statements, Tunisia’s interior minister, Kamel Fekih, recently acknowledged the pushbacks but denied any mistreatment or “collective deportation.”
These reports will likely heighten pressure on European lawmakers to address human rights concerns as they proceed with the migration deal to curb irregular migration.
Interviews conducted with nearly 50 migrants in various Tunisian cities revealed that the majority had been forcibly returned to the desert between late June and late July.
Losing Your Husband
Salma, a 28-year-old Nigerian woman, recounted her ordeal, “My two-year-old son and I were taken by some policemen and pushed back into the desert at the Libyan border. My husband was captured by other border guards, and I haven’t heard from him since then because I lost my phone.”
Michael, 38, from Benin City, Nigeria, said, “They pushed me back three times to the desert, the last time at the end of July. The Tunisian border guards beat us, stole our money and cellphones. In the desert, we had no water. I had to drink my own urine to survive.”
Pato Crepin, a Cameroonian, shared the heart-wrenching story of his wife and six-year-old daughter, Fati Dosso and Marie, who perished in the remote Libyan desert after being pushed back by Tunisian authorities. Crepin was sent back to Libya.
While the focus has traditionally been on the Tunisian-Libyan border, there are now reports of people being pushed back into the vast no man’s land along the Tunisian-Algerian border, which is less controlled.
A Cycle of Death
Djibril Tabeté, 22, from Senegal, stated, “They left us a few kilometers from the border. Then we were ordered to climb a hill. On the other side was Algeria. Problem is when the Algerian guard finds you, they push you to Tunisia. Tunisians push you, Algerians do the same. People die there.”
Reports of Tunisia forcibly removing migrants to the desert emerged in July, with photos circulating on social media suggesting that asylum seekers were dying due to thirst and extreme heat after being pushed back by Tunisian authorities.
Tunisia initially dismissed these reports, but gradually, they admitted that some sub-Saharans were stranded on the Tunisian-Libyan border, indicating the involvement of Tunisian authorities.
Italy’s interior ministry has reported that more than 78,000 people have arrived in Italy from North Africa via the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, surpassing the number of arrivals in 2022.
Of these, 42,719 departed from Tunisia, making it the primary departure point for migrants, overtaking Libya.
EU-Tunisia Migration Deal
The “strategic partnership” established between the EU and Tunisia in July involves providing funds to Tunisia to combat human trafficking, secure borders, and support the country’s struggling economy.
The first payment of €127 million is expected to be disbursed soon, according to European Commission spokesperson Ana Pisonero, but it is hard to know if this deal will be enough to combat this humanitarian crisis.
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The post “Tunisian Border Guards Beat Us, Stole Our Money and Cellphones” – Tunisian Authorities Accused of Forcibly Returning Migrants to the Desert, Resulting in Numerous Deaths first appeared on Wealthy Living.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Nicole Macheroux-Denault. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.
Source: The Guardians