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Tunisia expels hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants from capital: NGO

By AFP

May 3, 2024 11:31 PM


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Tunisian authorities in the early hours of Friday expelled hundreds of sub-Saharan asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees from encampments in the capital Tunis, a non-governmental organisation said.

Makeshift settlements in Tunis, including near the International Organization for Migration (IOM), were destroyed as the migrants were "deported to the Algerian border", said the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES).

"At least 300 migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as women and children, were forcibly evacuated overnight," said FTDES spokesman Romdhane Ben Amor.

Up to 700 sub-Saharan migrants had set up makeshift encampments in the area of Lac 1, north of the Gulf of Tunis, in the past few months, the rights group said.

Many had fled from other cities after a surge of anti-migrant violence following a speech by President Kais Saied in February 2023 in which he said "hordes of illegal migrants" posed a demographic threat to the country.

Humanitarian sources confirmed Friday's expulsions, which the police told AFP had started at around 3:00 am.

Some migrants had left the encampments before the authorities began clearing the area, said Ben Amor.

Others had "managed to escape before arriving in the Beja region, in western Tunisia", near the Algerian border, he told AFP.

"Among them there are vulnerable people protected by international conventions, and people in need of medical assistance who have already been living in inhumane conditions for months," he added.

AFP was unable to reach the interior ministry for comment.

Tunisia has become a launchpad for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach Europe annually, with Italy bearing the brunt of their initial arrivals.

The latest expulsions came days after far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's visit to Tunis -- her fourth in less than a year -- to sign deals aiming to curb migration.

A day before her visit, President Saied said Tunisia must not become "a country of transit or settlement" for migrants from other African countries.

Almost 70,000 migrants were intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy in 2023, according to Tunisian authorities.

Meloni is set to head the list of candidates for her party, Fratelli d'Italia, in the upcoming European elections taking place in June with migration at the forefront of debated issues.

 

 


AFP


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