• Tunisia

  • Friday, April 5, 2024 at 6:29 PM
    Last Update : Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 5:31 AM

Refugees in Tunisia Complain of Lack of Care, Low Chance for Third Country Resettlement

(AWP) - The hopes of African migrants in Tunisia of leaving for Europe are dwindling, as Tunisian human rights activists say that deals signed with the European Union (EU) last year have dashed the dreams of those wishing to cross to the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Dozens of tents are scattered in and around a park in the Tunisian capital Tunis, where an atmosphere of frustration prevails as migrants feel their hopes of being allowed to resettle in a third country fade.

Asylum seekers pitched small tents outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Tunis. One of them, Fatima, said she never imagined that her three-month journey from Sudan, through Chad and then Algeria, would end with her sitting in the street with nothing to eat.

Fatima said in statements to the Arab World Press (AWP), “We left our country because of the war, crossing from Chad to Algeria and then arriving in Tunisia. Of course, we endured difficulties and suffering. Our journey from Algeria to Tunisia took three months’ walking on foot.”

She continued, “We ended up on the streets without food or drink. The young people protested outside the UNHCR building, and we decided to join them. We are suffering from a lack of healthcare and support. Even the children are suffering.”

The refugees accused the UNHCR of ignoring their demands for adequate care amid the tough conditions they have been living in since arriving on Tunisian soil to escape a civil war.

Ibrahim, a refugee from Somalia, said, “We have families with us in a miserable situation. Even the children lack healthcare. It is our right to have healthcare. Our children also have the right to go to school.”

He added, “In Tunisia, we have no rights. We did not come to the UNHCR out of nowhere. We’ve come here after great suffering and have been pressured by both the Commission and the state. They have even refused to treat us when we go to hospitals or provide for our needs when we go to the shops.”

The migrants had hoped they could get resettled in a third country other than Tunisia, which is itself experiencing a large influx of migrants and asylum seekers. Countries in this region of North Africa are generally facing difficult economic and financial conditions, in addition to pressure from EU states to control the flow of migration from their shores.

Mostafa Abdel-Kabir, President of the Tunisian Observatory for Human Rights, referred to Tunisia’s agreements with the EU.

He said, “Tunisia is bound by agreements signed with the EU. These agreements have curbed the migrants’ freedom of movement, making them unable to migrate irregularly from Tunisia to Europe. The numbers are growing day by day along with the challenging humanitarian conditions.”

Kabir continued, “On Tunisian soil, they are refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. As we know, Tunisia does not have national laws on immigration and asylum. Accordingly, it is the UNHCR that is scrutinizing these files.”

He indicated that while the main objective of the migrants is to go to Europe, international organizations, in association with the State of Tunisia, are working to integrate them into Tunisian society.

“This integration process faces rejection by these groups and is also facing real difficulties, as we have not achieved significant results in the integration issue,” he added.

Last year, Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding with the EU that includes financial aid to the southern Mediterranean nation to assist in combating irregular immigration.

The EU hopes to halt the flow of illegal migrants into member states from the Tunisian coasts which are about 150 kilometers away from Italy. Tunisia has been used as a launching pad for migrants to Europe fleeing poverty and conflict in search of a better life.