Groups of migrants in dire situations in Tunisia
LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – For about two weeks now, the international NGO Alarm Phone has received distress calls from groups of migrants in dire situations, facing extreme heat and surrounded by armed forces on either sides of the borders, blocking paths of escape between Tunisia and Libya as well as Algeria.
Several deaths have already been reported as well as many medical emergencies are still insufficient with different authorities are failing to provide any medical assistance.
Alarm Phone said that it has tried to mobilise support but despite all the evidence provided and demands for intervention, the United Nations organizations; the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has failed to act while in some regions, humanitarian assistance by the Tunisian Red Crescent has reportedly been made conditional on people accepting so-called “voluntary returns”.
Alarm Phone added that this failure of international organizations supposedly meant to protect the rights of refugees and migrants is “shameful”.
Last Sunday, the EU agreed to a new migration deal with the Tunisian government. In order to cooperate “more effectively on migration”, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte travelled to Tunisia and agreed on considerable financial assistance, dedicated to Tunisiàs border management and “anti-smuggling” measures.
Rights groups have called for emergency aid and shelter for migrants forced out of Tunisia’s port city of Sfax, as dozens of people protested in Tunis in support of their plight. Hundreds of migrants fled or were forced out of the country’s second-largest city after racial tension flared following the July 3 killing of a Tunisian man in an altercation between locals and migrants.
Hundreds of people are stuck in the borderlands following the mass deportations from Tunisia. Sfax is a departure point for many migrants from impoverished and war-torn countries seeking a better life in Europe by making a perilous Mediterranean crossing, often in makeshift boats.
Romdane Ben Amor, spokesman for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, said that between 100 and 150 migrants including women and children were still stuck at the border with Libya. He said about 165 more migrants had been picked up near the border with Algeria.
“Migrants are transferred from one place to another while other groups hide out in the wild in catastrophic conditions for fear of being detected and suffering the same fate as those stranded on the borders,” Ben Amor said.
He called for emergency accommodation to be given to the migrants and said the authorities must send “a clear message” to Tunisian citizens to help them, regardless
of their status. Ben Amor expressed fears that migrants could die if they are not immediately given aid and shelter, noting that the bodies of two had already been found.
Meanwhile the head of a Cameroonian association claimed police had carried out “arbitrary arrests” of sub-Saharan Africans near the train station in Zarzis, south of Sfax.
“Around 300 have been arrested … just because of their skin colour,” said Eric Tchata, who posted online a video taken by a fellow Cameroonian purporting to show a group of people, including women and children, packed into a warehouse in Medenine, also south of Sfax.
Human Rights Watch has said the migrants have been left to fend for themselves without water or shelter in the border regions, where temperatures can rise over 40°C.
Meanwhile another group of at least 80 migrants were found in an uninhabited area close to Al-Assah, a town near the Tunisia-Libya border, about 150km west of Tripoli. The Libyan border agents gave them water and took them to a shelter.
The Tunisian Red Crescent said it had provided shelter to more than 600 people who had been taken after 3 July to the militarised zone of Ras Jedir, north of Al- Assah on the Mediterranean coast.
– Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma –