African migrants gesture and carry banners during a protest asking for evacuation from Tunisia, outside the headquarters of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Tunis, Tunisia March 22, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui

Tunisia: Anatomy of a Forced Deportation to Libya

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

A group of 20 migrants and asylum seekers from Western and Central Africa  were forcibly displaced to the Tunisian-Libyan border (near Ben Guerdane) on the morning of July 2nd by the Tunisian military and National Guard officers.

The group is in desperate need of help. There are six women (including two pregnant women, one close to giving birth), a 16-year-old girl from Cameroon, and 13 men in total. Two of the men are Cameroonian asylum seekers registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The group consists of individuals from Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mali, Guinea, and Chad.

These people, together with 28 other persons were initially arrested on Saturday, July 1st, in a house in Jbeniana, about 35 KM from Sfax. They report that authorities, including police officers, National Guard members, and military officers  raided the house where they were staying. The 48 people were afterwards arrested and taken to the police station of Jbeniana. Their passports and identification documents were checked and recorded.

The police then reportedly divided the 48 individuals into two groups. The first group, consisting of 28 people, who we are in contact with, is unaware of what happened to the other group.

The group of 28 people was moved to Ben Guerdane, where they were transferred between three National Guard bases and military bases, subjected to beatings and mistreatment, before being left at the Libyan border. The National Guard detained eight individuals (a minor boy and seven men) and deported the remaining twenty individuals to Libya. Their mobile phones were destroyed, and their money was stolen.

On July 4th, a second group of 100 migrant and refugee individuals was deported to the same location at the Libyan border. The group consists of various nationalities, including Ivorian, Cameroonian, and Guinean, with at least 12 children aged between 6 months and 5 years.

This expulsion is similar to other forced deportations happening between Libya and Algeria, which have been criticized by people on the move  from western and central Africa. Additionally, there have been reports of waves of arrests and violence against migrants and refugees in the city of Sfax in recent days.

The undersigned organizations condemn the human rights violations endured by these migrant individuals, asylum seekers, and refugees. We urge Tunisian authorities to provide clarifications on these events and urgently intervene to ensure the immediate care and support of these individuals.

List of Signatory Organisations:

  • Association des Ivorien Actifs en Tunisie – ASSIVAT
  • Association pour le Leadership et le Développement en Afrique – ALDA
  • Association Tunisienne de Soutien aux Minorités – ATSM
  • BorderlineEurope – Menschenrechte ohne Grenzen e.V
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • EuroMed Rights
  • Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux (FTDES)
  • Iuventa-crew
  • Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits Humains (LADDH)
  • Louise Michel MV
  • Migreurop
  • Minority Rights Group International
  • OnBorders
  • Organisation Marocaine Des Droits Humains (OMDH)
  • r42-sailandrescue
  • Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario
  • Sea-Watch
  • Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  • Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights
  • Watch the Med – Alarmphone
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

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