Recently, a group of UN independent experts raised alarm over Tunisia's alleged discriminatory treatment of migrants. They have urged the authorities to take immediate action to halt collective expulsions and ensure the protection of human rights. This concern was expressed in a statement by the experts, who emphasized the importance of adhering to international law.
The situation on the ground for migrants in Tunisia is deeply troubling. Take the case of Ahmed, a young man from sub-Saharan Africa who had embarked on a perilous journey in search of safety and opportunity. Ahmed arrived in Tunisia with dreams of a better life, only to face discrimination and violence. He recounted, "I thought I had finally reached a haven, but instead, I encountered hostility and prejudice."
Ahmed's experience is not unique. Many migrants like him face daily challenges, from limited access to essential services to difficulties finding employment. Discrimination and xenophobia further exacerbate their struggles, making it challenging for them to integrate into Tunisian society.
To truly understand the gravity of the situation, we must listen to the stories of those directly affected. Fatima, a pregnant woman seeking refuge in Tunisia, shared her harrowing experience: "I fled my war-torn homeland with the hope of finding safety for my unborn child. Instead, I faced deportation and violence. "I can't comprehend why we are treated this way."
These personal stories underscore the urgency of the situation. Migrants, many fleeing conflict and persecution, arrive in Tunisia seeking safety and protection, only to find themselves in precarious and often dangerous conditions.
"Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law," the UN experts warned, highlighting a crucial principle that must be upheld to safeguard the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.
The experts underlined that international human rights law mandates that migrants cannot be deported without conducting an individual and objective risk assessment. This assessment is crucial to determining the potential human rights violations they might face upon their return to their home countries.
One particularly distressing aspect is the deportation of women and children. The experts communicated their concerns to the Tunisian government in March, addressing the situation's urgency.
"We call on the authorities to immediately halt any further deportations and to continue and expand humanitarian access to a dangerous area on the Tunisian-Libyan border where many, including pregnant women and children, have already been deported," the UN experts emphasized.
Moreover, the experts pointed out the significance of the policy of non-refoulement, which prohibits sending people back to countries where they are likely to suffer torture or other harm. This policy applies to all forms of expulsion, regardless of nationality or migration status, and is a fundamental international human rights law tenet.
Beyond the issue of deportations, the experts expressed deep concern about reports of racist hate speech in Tunisia and incidents of violence against migrants in Sfax, some of which were allegedly perpetrated by law enforcement officials.
"Racial hate speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination has real consequences, including violence," the experts stressed, highlighting the dangerous impact of hate speech on vulnerable communities.
The experts called upon the Tunisian government to take immediate steps to combat racist hate speech and protect sub-Saharan migrants from violence. They also urged the government to investigate reported acts of violence thoroughly and ensure victims have access to justice and remedies.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva appointed these experts. They are not UN staff and do not receive payment for their work. Their role is to provide independent assessments and recommendations on human rights issues, making their concerns all the more significant.
The situation regarding the treatment of migrants in Tunisia raises essential questions about human rights and international law. The UN experts' statement serves as a call to action, urging the Tunisian authorities to address these issues promptly and uphold their obligations under international law. It is a reminder that the protection of human rights and the well-being of migrants should always be at the forefront of any nation's policies and actions.