Deported and Left to Die in No Man’s Land

Agreements between the EU and Tunisia on migration control contribute directly to the escalation of racism, migrant hunts, and mass deportations.

Deported and Left to Die in No Man’s Land
by the Alarme Phone Sahara network for their website
9 July 2023 (original post)

Stop the hunt on migrants in Tunisia and deportations to the border! Help and evacuation for people deported to the no-man’s-land on the Tunisian-Libyan border!

Alarme Phone Sahara strongly condemns the racist attacks, hunts on migrants, and mass deportations to the Libyan and Algerian borders that have intensified in Tunisia since the end of June 2023.

In the port city of Sfax, racist violence against sub-Saharan migrants intensified after the arrest of several people accused of killing a Tunisian man during an altercation. According to numerous reports, this act was an opportunity for groups within the population and for the police to target Black people on a large scale. The people concerned say they were brutally beaten and attacked with stones, and that groups of assailants violently broke into migrants’ homes and even raped women and young girls. Several hundred people fled the city by train to Tunis and hundreds more were arrested for deportation.

However, the mass arrests and deportations from Sfax, as well as from small towns near the outskirts of Tunis, began even before the violent death of the Tunisian man.

According to a statement by a member of parliament from Sfax, Tunisia deported around 1,200 undocumented migrants to the borders with Libya and Algeria between 28 June and 6 July 2023. He explained that the migrants were deported in groups of two hundred and that four buses left Sfax each day to transport them. He also hoped that “between three and four thousand migrants will be deported by the end of the week.”

Hundreds of people trapped in no-man’s-land on the Tunisian-Libyan border

Reports from a group of around six hundred people who have contacted the international media and institutions by mobile phone to ask for help after being deported to a beach in the no-man’s-land between the Tunisian and Libyan borders are particularly alarming. They are trapped without access to water and food because the Tunisian security forces won’t let them leave and the Libyan forces, for their part, won’t let people through either. Even outside aid workers trying to bring in food and water have not been allowed through. According to the people concerned, some have started drinking sea water out of desperation. There are also unconfirmed reports that two people have already died on the beach in no-man’s-land.

Group of women waving empty water bottles, no-man’s-land, Tunisian-Libyan border. © Les Observateurs, France24 – screenshot, video shared by Adama (pseudonym)

Racist policies in Tunisia and the outsourcing of European borders

The migrant hunts and mass deportations in Tunisia are the direct consequence of a racist policy and atmosphere, fueled among others by Tunisian President Kais Saied since February 2023. But they are also the direct consequence of the externalization of the border regime by EU states, which require the Tunisian state to play the role of guardian of the gates of Europe and prevent migrants and Tunisian citizens from entering Europe at all costs.

In this way, the agreements between the EU and Tunisia on migration control contribute directly to the escalation of racism, which is also present in Tunisian society, and signal to the Tunisian state that it is desirable to send thousands of people back to the borders and no-man’s-land.

Finally, we would like to point out that the hunt for migrants and refugees, encouraged by the European border regime, and the mass deportations of people towards the borders and the desert are not exclusively Tunisian problems, but also concern, in specific forms, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya.

Alarme Phone Sahara demands:

  • An immediate end to the hunt on migrants, racist violence, and mass deportations in Tunisia!
  • Immediate help and evacuation for people deported to the Tunisian-Algerian and Tunisian-Libyan borders, especially for the hundreds of people trapped in no-man’s-land at the Tunisian-Libyan border!
  • Disseminate the appeals, reports and testimonies of those affected by the hunt for migrants and the mass deportations in Tunisia widely to the international public!

Featured image: people stranded on the beach after deportation to the Tunisian-Libyan border. Source: AP News via Alarme Phone Sahara – photo taken by a twenty-nine-year-old migrant from Ivory Coast

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News reports on events in Tunisia:

Tunisie : la chasse aux migrants irréguliers reprend son cours

Report on the alarming situation of hundreds of people trapped in no-man’s-land on the Tunisian-Libyan border:

Reports on people who fled the city of Sfax following racist attacks:

Video of violent arrest of migrants in Sfax:

Reports by refugees in Tunisia on Twitter:

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