Irregular migrants arriving from Sub-Saharan African countries to Libya and Algeria risk their lives in transit to and from Tunisia to Europe.
Neighboring Libya in the east and Algeria in the west, Tunisia is flooded by irregular migrants due to its close location to Italy’s islands in the Mediterranean.
It is said that President Kays Said, who took over the administration with extraordinary decisions two years ago in Tunisia, which is struggling with political and economic problems, targets irregular migrants on various issues, especially unemployment in the country.
In addition to those who want to reach Europe by opening from the Mediterranean coasts of Tunisia, irregular migrants trapped in the borders of Algeria and Libya die at sea or in the desert.
“The world’s busiest and deadliest migration route”
Located halfway between Algeria and Libya, Tunisia is on a transit route for African irregular migrants, as it is close to Italy’s southern islands.
Increasingly, in recent years, irregular migrants from Sub-Saharan African countries are crossing to Tunisia, in the hope of reaching Europe via Libya or Algeria.
African irregular migrants trying to shelter for a while in Sfaks, the country’s second largest and industrial city, are mostly trying to cross to the island of Lempedusa, 130 kilometers from Tunisia to Italy.
According to the data of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it was recorded that 2,406 irregular migrants died or disappeared on the North African route last year, while 1166 people lost their lives or could not be heard from in the first half of this year.
The deadly journey of African irregular migrants to the Mediterranean
Irregular immigrants are making a kind of “death voyage” with flimsy boats to the open sea. In addition to the African irregular migrants who crossed the Mediterranean and reached Europe, some of them are caught before they set off or drowned due to the instability of their boats.
This route, where thousands of irregular migrants drown in Mediterranean waters every year, is called “the world’s busiest and deadliest migration route” by experts.
According to the United Nations (UN) data, it was reported that 90,763 migrants arrived in Italy in the first week of August, and 56,42 of them came via Tunisia.
While the National Guard Administration, which provides border and coast guard security in Tunisia, announced that 150 irregular migrants were rescued on 3 August, 11 people were killed and 44 missing on 7 August.
Irregular migrants left to die at borders
In addition to those trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, Tunisian security forces are said to have left irregular migrants at the Algerian and Libyan border in recent months.
Images of sub-Saharan Africans, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, who have been left to their fate in the desert by Tunisia, have been shared on social media for a while.
According to the report of Human Rights Watch (HRW), it is stated that approximately 1200 African migrants were abandoned at the border of Algeria and Libya last month.
It is reported that some of the irregular migrants, who said that they were left in the desert region on the Libyan border by the Tunisian security forces, lost their lives due to heat, hunger and thirst.
Gandhi Djuna, known as the world-famous rap artist “Maitre Gims”, canceled his concert in Tunis on 11 August due to the “leaving them to die” at the border.
Following this, rap group Bigflo & Oli and female singer Fatoumata Diawara from Ivory Coast decided not to hold their concerts in Tunisia for the same reason.
Tunisia’s “irregular immigration diplomacy”
Tunisian President Kays Said signed a comprehensive cooperation memorandum of understanding with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on 16 July at the Tunisian Presidential Palace.
Accordingly, over 1 billion euros in financing was provided to Tunisia with a comprehensive cooperation plan, while it was announced that 100 million euros would be donated to “fight against smuggling and irregular migration”.
Dutch Prime Minister Rutte, in a statement after the meeting, emphasized that strategic cooperation focuses on the issue of “fighting irregular migration”.
Katja Keul, Minister of State at the German Foreign Ministry, said on 8 August that Europe’s cooperation with Tunisia in the fight against irregular migration “depends on human rights”.
On 10 August, Tunisian Interior Minister Kemal al-Faki and Libyan Interior Minister Imad al-Tripoli held a meeting on the issue of combating irregular migration and border procedures.
It is stated that violence against irregular migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa has increased after President Said’s speech in February that irregular migrants were part of the “massive displacement” plot.