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Tunisia accused of ‘mass desert dumping’ of migrants

Tunisian police rounded up hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers and left the men, women, and children stranded at the Algerian border, according to the Refugees in Libya NGO, which called it a “mass desert dumping” in a 3 May post on X (formerly known as Twitter.)

The raid, which happened around 3am on Friday morning, saw police scoop up people from several makeshift camps in the capital, Tunis – two of them outside the offices of the UN’s refugee (UNHCR) and migration (IOM) agencies, according to the NGO.

The asylum seekers and migrants were reportedly put on municipal buses and driven to the border, where Refugees in Libya said they were left near the town of Jendouba with no food or water.

Encampments, where the migrants and refugees had been protesting against increasing levels of xenophobic violence in Tunisia and demanding urgent relocation to safer countries, were also reportedly bulldosed during the crackdown.

Tunisian President Kais Saied has also disclosed the expulsion of approximately 400 migrants and asylum seekers from the country's eastern border.

Hostility towards those on the move has intensified since early 2023 when Saied portrayed the presence of migrants as a threat to the demographic balance of Tunisia, sparking violence and forcing some migrants and asylum seekers to flee the migration hub of Sfax.

For many migrants and asylum seekers in North Africa who have escaped violence and harsh economic conditions in their home countries further south, Tunisia is a key transit point to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

A one-billion-euro strategic partnership between Tunisia and the EU, agreed in July 2023 and aimed at reducing migration, has been criticised for ignoring human rights concerns.

In November last year, The New Humanitarian spoke to dozens of new arrivals who said the little assistance that does exist comes from local volunteers struggling to fill the gap left by the inaction of the government and international aid organisations.

Read more: In a Tunisian migration hub, asylum seekers find little support 

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