Crisis at the border: African migrants left stranded in Tunisia

A dire humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Tunisia as hundreds of black African migrants and asylum seekers face collective expulsions to a remote desert region near the Libyan border. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Tunisian government to immediately halt these actions, which have left migrants stranded in deplorable conditions. The situation escalated following a violent incident in Sfax, where a 41-year-old Tunisian man was fatally stabbed during a clash between Tunisians and migrants.

Sfax, the second-largest city in Tunisia, serves as a major departure point for migrants attempting to reach Europe, particularly the Italian island of Lampedusa. However, Tunisian security forces have forcibly expelled several hundred individuals, including vulnerable groups such as women, children, and pregnant women, to a militarized buffer zone at the Tunisia-Libya border. HRW has raised concerns over the reported violence and mistreatment endured by the migrants during these expulsions.

The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated. Migrants interviewed by HRW have shared harrowing accounts of deaths and assaults allegedly perpetrated by Tunisian security forces and armed Libyan men in the border area. These claims, although unverified, demand thorough investigation and accountability for any human rights abuses.

HRW has emphasized the desperate need for humanitarian access and assistance for the expelled migrants. Many find themselves in a perilous situation, lacking access to food, medical care, and basic necessities. Urgent action is required to protect their lives and well-being.

The recent surge in racially motivated attacks in Tunisia has further exacerbated tensions. President Kais Saied’s accusations against undocumented migrants have fueled a dangerous narrative, suggesting a “criminal plot” and posing significant risks to the country’s demographic fabric.

Videos shared by African associations reveal the dire conditions faced by the migrants in the desert. Exhausted individuals, including mothers with infants, are seen struggling to survive on the sandy terrain. Their pleas for help highlight the immediate need for intervention.

While some Tunisians have shown solidarity by providing food and medical aid to the migrants, a lasting solution requires the Tunisian government’s intervention. HRW’s call to halt the collective expulsions and investigate reported abuses is of utmost importance. The government must take immediate steps to address the underlying issues that have perpetuated racial tensions and provide long-term solutions for migrants seeking safety and better lives.

The plight of these African migrants stranded in Tunisia’s border regions demands international attention and urgent action. The humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes calls for a comprehensive and compassionate response from the Tunisian government and the international community alike.

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