Pregnant Sudanese 26 year old nurse Tafaul Omar was left stranded under the burning desert heat. She was among 14 other migrants in Alasaa, Libya, who told Reuters on August 8th that they were arrested on the border and dumped there with no help. This is a practice which Tunisia has denied.
Speaking to Reuters, Omar told her story that she was with her husband, Yaseen Adam had been living in Zarziz, a southern town near the border with Libya, where he is a day laborer, in Tunisia. They had been saving up to pay smugglers to take them to Italy. She said police arrested them last week and drove them to the border.
As they were trying to go to Italy, there was “beating and insults” before they got arrested, the men were beaten up by authorities while the women were left alone to fend for themselves in the desert. They walked for “three, four hours” without knowing the direction in the desert.
Since Tunisian authorities initiated mass expulsions in early July, hundreds of migrants from Africa have been arriving in Libya daily, enduring extreme temperatures and challenging conditions.
The group of men and women from Sudan, Senegal, Ghana and Mali had walked for four hours before a Libyan border patrol that Reuters accompanied found them at the weekend and gave them water and food, Omar and the others said.
The couple fled their Khartoum home because of the warfare that suddenly broke out there in April with shellfire in their neighbourhood killing Omar’s father, and traveled through Chad and Algeria before arriving in Tunisia, they said.
“Tunisia rejects all accusations of expelling African immigrants,” said Interior Ministry spokesperson Faker Bouzgaya, when asked by Reuters about the migrants’ accounts. Asked how those stranded in the desert had arrived there, he said “People who meet the conditions for legal entry into Tunisia will be allowed in,” adding “Tunisia is not responsible for what happens outside its borders” without elaborating.
Despite the criticism directed at Tunisia’s approach, the European Union last month said it would give the country more than 100 million euros to help combat people smuggling and improve border management although in reality the figure was closer to 1.7bn euros in total when a number of other areas were also bankrolled.