UN experts on Tuesday expressed concern over Tunisia’s alleged discriminatory treatment of sub-Saharan migrants. They urged the authorities to take urgent measures to put an end to collective expulsions and guarantee the protection of the human rights of all migrants.
According to UN experts, collective expulsions are against international law, and deporting migrants or refugees without an individual assessment of the risks of human rights violations amounts to refoulement, which is prohibited under international human rights law.
In March, experts contacted the Tunisian government to express concern over reports of racist treatment of sub-Saharan migrants, as well as mass expulsions targeting these vulnerable populations. They also deplored the violence and racist hate speech, including that coming from the country’s senior leaders and law enforcement agencies.
Experts have urged the authorities to immediately halt ongoing deportations and facilitate humanitarian access to a dangerous area on the Tunisian-Libyan border, where many people, including pregnant women and children, have already been deported.
They recalled that the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits forced expulsions to situations where the life or freedom of persons would be threatened, applies to all forms of expulsion, regardless of the nationality or immigration status of the individuals concerned.
The experts also pointed out that the targeting of migrants and asylum seekers based on their skin color is a violation of the prohibition of racial discrimination established by international law.
Furthermore, they expressed their deep concern over reports of racist hate speech and violence against migrants, particularly in Sfax, even involving law enforcement officers. They called on the Tunisian government to take immediate action to end such hate speech, protect sub-Saharan migrants from violence, investigate reported acts, and ensure access to justice and remedies for victims.
Also, the experts recalled that racial hate speech can incite discrimination and have serious consequences, including violence.
Migrants: Source of “ violence and crime”
Last February, the Tunisian President, Kais Saied, made remarks “racists” and “hate towards sub-Saharan migrants, sparking outrage in Tunisia and around the world.
Indeed, during a meeting of the National Security Council held in February, Kais Saied advocated ” urgent measures against the illegal immigration of sub-Saharan Africans to his country, claiming that their presence was a source of ” violence and crimes“.
Thus, the Tunisian president had made an extremely harsh speech on the arrival of ” hordes of illegal immigrants whose presence in Tunisia was, according to him, a source of violence, crimes and unacceptable acts“, emphasizing ” the need to quickly end to this immigration.
He further argued that this illegal immigration was a ” criminal enterprise hatched at the dawn of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia“, in order to transform it into a country” african only “and fade his character” Arab-Muslim“.
He had even called on the authorities to act ” at all levels, diplomatic, security and military to deal with this immigration and to strict application of the law on the status of foreigners in Tunisia and on the illegal crossing of borders“.
Statements that have been condemned by international institutions such as the African Union (AU), as well as by NGOs specializing in migration issues and senior European officials, some even calling for sanctions against the Tunisian president.