UN human rights experts* today condemned Tunisia’s recent collective expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers, pointing to allegations that they were subjected to brutal racism and arbitrarily expelled to dangerous conditions in Libya.
Dozens of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa remain in a precarious situation near the Tunisia-Libya border, where they lack access to shelter, food, water and medical care and face extreme threats of torture, abduction, and gender and sexual based violence.
Tunisia’s expulsion of these migrants and asylum seekers, as well as its continued denial of their re-entry, may violate Tunisia’s obligations under international law, the experts said. They reminded Tunisia of its non-refoulement obligations which require that States do not return individuals to countries where they would be in danger of being subjected to torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, or other irreparable harm.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety, dignity, physical integrity and living conditions of the migrants, particularly pregnant women and children, who are stranded at the Tunisia-Libya border,” the experts said.
Some of the migrants and asylum seekers were beaten and threatened by Tunisian authorities, they said. “We are alarmed over reports that some migrants that were trying to seek entry to Tunisia, including one child, have been abducted by an unidentified group of armed men and held captive in Libya,” the experts added. “Several others have been reportedly detained by Libyan authorities and taken to detention centres.
“We remind Libyan authorities of their obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the fundamental human rights of migrants including their right to life, liberty, security, health, food, shelter and water and sanitation”, the experts said.
The experts said migrants and asylum seekers are all from countries in sub-Saharan Africa. “This raises major concerns that these people are being subjected to violations of their human rights in Tunisia and Libya on a racialized basis, especially in light of reports we have received of increasing racist and xenophobic treatment of sub-Saharan African Migrants,” they said.
“We recall that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires that governments protect everyone from racialized violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by an individual group or institution.”
The experts have been in contact with the Governments of Tunisia and Libya to address these concerns.