Atwasat

Tunisia rejects charges it is expelling migrants to borders with Libya and Algeria




Alwasat Staff Fri 04 Aug 2023, 01:32 AM
alwasat radio

Tunisia on Thursday rejected allegations from the United Nations and reports in the media that it has expelled sub-Saharan migrants to its borders with Libya and Algeria.

"What was published by certain international organisations, and especially the statement by the UN spokesperson, is characterised by inaccuracy and even untruths," the TAP news agency quoted Interior Minister Kamel Fekih as saying.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesman called for Tunisia to stop expelling migrants into desert border areas, and demanded that those already stranded in the harsh environment be relocated.

"We are deeply concerned about the expulsion of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from Tunisia to the borders with Libya and also Algeria," UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said.

Haq warned that "several have died" at Tunisia's border with Libya, while "hundreds, including pregnant women and children, reportedly remain stranded in extremely dire conditions with little access to food and water".

Humanitarian sources in Tripoli said Thursday that the bodies of 24 people, including women and children, have been recovered from the Libyan desert since the beginning of July.

"The allegations about expulsion operations are unfounded," the Tunisian minister said on Thursday.

He called for "verification of the authenticity of the information before publication, given the negative repercussions" for the security forces in the North African country.

Fekih said the security forces "spare no effort when it comes to rescuing and saving migrants on land and at sea".

He said that "15,327 migrants, of whom 95 percent" come from sub-Saharan Africa, have been "saved between January and July".

The minister also affirmed Tunisia's "full respect and commitment" to human rights, and highlighted the work of organisations such as the Tunisian Red Crescent in aiding migrants.

His ministry's statement was accompanied by images, with no indication of date or location, showing the Tunisian National Guard and Red Crescent handing out food and water to African migrants.

Fekih said the migrants issue was being treated "in accordance with Tunisian law and international treaties", and that "the Tunisian state is not responsible for what happens outside its borders".

Tunisia is a major gateway for migrants and asylum-seekers attempting perilous sea voyages in hopes of a better life in Europe.

After the July 3 killing of a Tunisian in an altercation with migrants in the port city of Sfax, up to 1,200 black Africans were "expelled, or forcibly transferred by Tunisian security forces" to desert border regions with Libya and Algeria, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

On July 12, the Red Crescent said it had provided shelter to around 630 migrants rescued in the Ras Jedir buffer zone between Tunisia and Libya. It also cared for some 200 more sent to the border with Algeria.

Media organisations including AFP have gathered testimony from migrants, Libyan border guards and NGOs that 350 people, including 12 pregnant women and 65 children, were still stranded in the Ras Jedir buffer zone.

And hundreds of migrants continue to flow into the Libyan desert from Tunisia at Al'Assah, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Ras Jedir, where they wander without food or water until Libyan guards help them, an AFP team found last Sunday.

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