In the Tunisian desert, the EU has the “blood” of migrants “on its hands”

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Humanitarian crisis For several weeks, hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants have been deported outside the Tunisian borders and left in the middle of the desert, without water and without food, under the silent gaze de Bruxelles

In the Tunisian desert, the EU has the “blood of migrants “on its hands”

African migrants demonstrate at the border between Libya and Tunisia, Thursday, August 4, 2023. — Yousef Murad/AP/SIPA

  • For about two weeks, Libyan border guards say they have rescued hundreds of migrants in the desert, deposited, according to them, by the Tunisian authorities at the border.
  • A critical humanitarian situation which does not however react the European Union, signatory of a pact with Tunis to control crossings of the Mediterranean.
  • Several experts on the subject, interviewed by 20 Minutes, decipher the deafening silence of Brussels in the face of this human tragedy.

A shattering silence resounds in Europe. While people, men, women, children, abandoned in the desert between Tunisia and Libya, have been dying of thirst, hunger and heat for weeks, the European Union remains silent. However, it is with Tunisia, responsible for its renewals of sub-Saharan migrants outside its borders, that Brussels has signed a a “strategic partnership” mid-July to try to stem the arrival of asylum seekers by boat.

Unliving conditions

According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, at least “1,200 sub-Saharan nationals” have been “Expelled” by the security forces; Tunisians at the borders with Libya at the east, and Algeria to the west. “Sub-Saharan migrants are picked up from different points in Tunisia, then taken away and left in the desert, says Claudia Lodesani, head of the migration program at M&decins sans frontières (MSF ). Either they reach Libya or they manage to reach Libya. return to Tunisia to leave by boat”. The others are likely to perish. This is the case of Matyla Dosso, and her daughter Marie, aged 6. In the columns of Mediapart,Crépin Mbengue Nyimbilo tells how he learned of the death of his wife and daughter, evidenced by a shocking photo of them, inert, lying on their stomachs in the desert. Crépin and Matyla had aspired to to join Tunisia on July 13, to “ensure a secure future” and an “adequate” to their daughter, he tells the news site.

The reception conditions for sub-Saharan migrants have deteriorated this year. Anti-black racism has been exacerbated by the violent speech of the Tunisian president held in February denouncing a “great replacement” and “highlighting the question of Arab-Muslim identity”, recalls Matthieu Tardis, researcher on migration and asylum policies and co-director of Synergies migrations. Statements that have pushed sub-Saharan migrants to boats to reach the European Union from Tunisia, now the first port of departure, ahead of Libya, according to MSF.

A pact in full knowledge of the facts< /h2>

To stem this flow of possible asylum seekers, the European Union and Tunis concluded a “strategic partnership” centered on the fight against irregular immigration. “It’s a partnership with a country that violates human rights,” simply recalls Tania Racho, researcher in European law and member of the Désinfox-Migrations network. It is part of a European policy on migratory flows adopted for years, and in particular since 2016, with the agreement reached by the European Union. with Turkey. “The EU has a simple objective: to externalize the borders for asylum seekers,” summarizes Claudia Lodesani.

Now “European countries are counting on the Tunisian President, Kaïs Saïed, to help them intensify their efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Several European governments, led by Italy, have made reducing the number of migrants from North Africa a priority. policy,” his turn Anthony Dworkin. Today, given the deaths recorded in the desert between Tunisia and Libya, but also the thousands of people drowned in the Mediterranean for lack of long-term solutions, Tania Racho n’ is not afraid to say it: “The European Union has blood on its hands” A way of saying that it is indeed complicit in these violations of human rights, of this right to asylum.

Agreements which « bind our hands »

That’s why today Brussels does not raise its voice. If, for Tania Racho, “with this pact, we expect all the more a reaction from the European Union,” Anthony Dworkin instead sees this silence as the result of the agreement. “In order to obtain the cooperation of Kaïs Saïed, these governments and the EU as a whole have muted any criticism of the measures taken against migrants in Tunisia” because it “might get in the way of the help they seek. It is more convenient to be silent,” he analyzes.

Yet “it”s a question of credibility. It is fundamental for the EU to criticize such actions,” But these chords “bind our hands, our thoughts, our words,” according to Matthieu Tardis. The European Union finds itself the victim of blackmail in the face of migratory pressure exerted by these countries, as Turkey openly does with Syrian migrants. Yet if Europe is forced to “deal with the governments in place in the region” despite their often undemocratic regime, “commitment should not be devoid of values,” recalls Anthony Dworkin.

A dead silence

A sign, perhaps, that this silence is also part of a migration policy essentially apprehended from a security and no longer a human point of view. For years, the migration issue has been approached as a problem, rather than a solution, and has given rise to fears rather than hope.

Finally , for Claudia Lodesani, the policy undertaken by the European Union “has gotten worse; up to the dehumanization of people who need help making it a problem to be kept away from us.” This results in the criminalization of migrants themselves, but also of NGOs or people in society. civilians who come to their aid. “All this policy is carried out with the aim of making the lives of migrants as difficult as possible,” said the president of MSF Italy. Yet migrants “could be an answer to our demographic difficulties, we need it and we refuse it, it”s absurd”, protests Tania Racho.