UN official urges Tunisia to protect human rights amidst expulsion of sub-Saharan migrants

A UN refugee and human rights official expressed concern on Tuesday over the expulsion of sub-Saharan migrants to the Lybian desert after the migrants killed a Tunisian individual. Maya Sahli Fadel—who serves as the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons, and Migrants in Africa as well as the commissioner in charge of the promotion and protection of human rights in the Republic of Tunisia—mourned the loss of a Tunisian life but called the treatment of sub-Saharan migrants brutal and barbaric.

Fadel stressed that a person’s position as a regular or irregular migrant does not reduce their right to dignity, and urged the Tunisian government to treat migrants with dignity. She encouraged Tunisian authorities to find a way to avoid the region’s violence from escalating while preserving migrants’ rights provided by the African Charter.

Fadel commented:

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights obliges States to take all necessary measures to ensure respect for the rights contained therein. This includes respect for human dignity, the security of the human person and protection against all forms of discrimination, including that based on race.

Tunisian police forcibly deported hundreds of black migrants from Sfax, Tunisia to the Libyan border in early July. According to reports to the NGO alarm phone, police officials evicted 20 persons, including six women and a 16-year-old girl. According to additional allegations, the evictees were beaten, their food thrown away, and their phones smashed. The migrants were left trapped at the border, but after confronting armed men, they escaped back into Tunisia.

The number of migrants climbed to 500, according to Human Rights Watch, after it was discovered that some of them were stranded without access to food or water. Violent clashes between sub-Saharan Africans and Tunisians, after the latter’s rallies against the migration problem in Tunisia, led to an escalation of the situation.