In July this year, the EU concluded a cooperation agreement with Tunisia with the aim of stopping the large number of African migrants from reaching Europe illegally. The collaboration has been criticized by several different human rights organizations. Photo: Martin Schulz/US Naval Forces Europe-Africa. Source: Flickr.

Development magazine explains

EU cooperates with Tunisia - despite accusations of inhumane treatment of migrants

Several human rights organizations have noticed how African migrants are subjected to violence by Tunisian security forces. Reports indicate that migrants forcibly placed and left under difficult conditions in the extreme heat of the Sahara desert - without water and shelter. At the same time, the European Commission has recently concluded a cooperation agreement with Tunisia to put an end to the number of migrants who trying get to Europe.  

In recent years, Tunisia has become a central location for sub-Saharan African migrants who want to reach Europe. For these migrants, the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax has become a point of departure. In Sfax tensions between African migrants and the Tunisian people have been rising for some time. In June this year Tunisian protesters took to the streets and squares to show their displeasure against the African migrants in Tunisia and illegal migration.

The following month, Tunisia and the European Commission joined one cooperation agreement to strengthen the Tunisian border control and coast guard - despite harsh criticism from human rights organizations. The European Commission shall invest €105 million to strengthen Tunisia's border guards, search and rescue operations and repatriation of African migrants. The hope is that the agreement will put an end to the large number of migrants trying to reach Europe illegally.

- We must crack down on criminal networks of smugglers and human traffickers. They exploit human despair, says Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Violence and forced placement of migrants

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has accused the Tunisian state for violating international human rights laws in the expulsion of African migrants. The organization calls on the Tunisian state to implement urgent reforms to respect the human rights of migrants and end the ongoing violence. Other international bodies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), have too expressed that the situation for the migrants is critical.

The border between Libya and Tunisia is described as a no man's land where the Tunisian state forcibly places asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch reports about how migrants are mistreated by Tunisian forces, and robbed of their belongings such as phones, passports and money.

In July Tunisian security forces forcibly placed over 1 African migrants at the borders of Algeria and Libya. The migrants were left in the Sahara desert without enough water and food. Libyan authorities has reported that at least 27 migrants have died as a result of the forced placements. Expelled from Tunisia and ported from Libya and Algeria, hundreds of migrants have nowhere to go.

The reports about Tunisia's treatment of migrants and that the country has entered into cooperation agreements with the EU have provoked reactions from several organizations, including Amnesty International.

- This ill-judged agreement, signed despite mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses by the authorities, will result in a dangerous expansion of an already failed migration policy and signals the EU's acceptance of increasingly repressive behavior by the Tunisian president and government , says Eve Geddie, Head of Advocacy at Amnesty International.  

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