Tunisia: Migrants plead for safe passage

Migrants in Tunisia

Migrants in Tunisia suffer starvation, sweltering heat, and appalling conditions as the EU neglects the primary point of its own ‘Copenhagen criteria’ and continues to ramp up relations and strike anti-immigration deals with Tunisia’s government.

Sub-Saharan migrants, who seek refuge and asylum from war in their home countries, confide in the shelter of Tunisian olive groves whilst trying to avoid the wrath of the riled-up racists who march the streets of Jebeniana from the 17th-19th May, the Associated Press reported.

Defao, a migrant from Mali explained “there is no work here. It’s not easy to find anything to eat…All we want is for them to let us go, we will leave.”

READ: Tunisia: Italy PM talks migration in state visit

The Tunisian Coast Guard claims that they have prevented more than 21,000 migration attempts by sea and land this year. Last year the Norwegian Refugee Council said that 75,000 people had been intercepted by the Tunisian coast guard.

However, the EU’s funding of Tunisia’s anti-immigration strategies and deals was rendered “an old and dangerous mistake” and has been criticised by international human rights organisations.

The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit even advised a revision of Europe’s anti-migrant deals with Africa and Tunisia.

“We’re spending now huge amounts of money, giving this money to different regimes…like the Tunisian government. We know the authorities there are treating very badly the refugees,” Schmit told Euronews in an interview on 7th May.

The EU granted Tunisia $1.1 billion in financial aid towards stopping migration attempts into Europe.

Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied has adopted a hard stand against migrants in recent years and he accused them of bringing violence and crime to Tunisia.

READ: Tunisia: Migrants face appalling conditions, despite EU funding

In 2023, Saied’s anti-migrant speech incited waves of violence against black African migrants in Tunisia.

Saied’s contagious racism inspired hate-filled, anti-migrant protests across the country. Protesters have expressed that they feel they have borne the cost of Tunisia’s efforts to prevent migrants from reaching the EU.

While fewer than 8,000 migrants have successfully made the dangerous voyage to Italian shores since the beginning of 2024, another 7,000 wait and survive in north Tunisian towns, Jebeniana and El Amra – two key destinations for attempting the Mediterranean crossing.

Despite what Tunisians may think, many migrants like Zile Inoza from Burkina Faso do not want to stay in the country.

He stated, “There is war in our countries, and we are here only to cross over no save our families…We are only asking to be allowed to pass.”

AP/The Guardian/Washington Post


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