Protest by NGOs in Tunisia | Photo: Progetto20k
Protest by NGOs in Tunisia | Photo: Progetto20k

Various associations have launched an appeal calling for an immediate protection intervention for 36 people who are blocked in very difficult conditions at the border between Tunisia and Libya.

36 Ivorians are reportedly being held at the border between Libya and Tunisia since last Saturday. That's why several Italian organizations are participating in a border activism initiative in Tunisia called "Europe Zarzis Afrique" to launch an appeal for "immediate intervention to protect the 36 people deported to the Libyan border". 


On Sunday, two groups -- 36 Ivorians and 20 Sudanese -- arriving from Libya by land had been arrested by military units in the southern border area of Medenine and sent back to Libyan territory, the Tunisian defense ministry said.  A video shared by the NGO Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) claimed that the migrants had been abandoned in the desert without any food or water.

After being sent back to Libyan territory, the 36 Ivorians including 11 women and three babies had been intercepted and are "held in very difficult conditions",  the organizations write in their joint Facebook statement.

'UNHCR must condemn Tunisian government'

The organizations said they are also calling on the UNHCR to "take a position condemning the Tunisian government and its lies", referring to the fact that Tunisian authorities had denied that a deportation of migrants across the border to Libya had taken place. 

"Just yesterday, the authorities were propagating fake news, saying that the deportation had never taken place, faulting Italian activists for releasing the video," the statement said. 

"The people who were deported are still in the border area with Libya, and only with the presence of activists, various forms of pressure, and media attention have they thus far avoided the worst consequences."

'People must be immediately brought back to Sfax'

The organizations, namely LasciateCIEntrare, Meltingpot Europa, and Progetto20k-Carovane Migranti,  said a UNHCR official they spoke with "confirmed she was aware of the deportation, but thus far the UN agency hasn't formally expressed an opinion, since this is not a question of asylum seekers. However, when asked whether there was a possibility to exercise the right to asylum at the border, she did not respond. Activists are calling for the people to be immediately brought back to Sfax, protected and left free to choose where they want to live!" 

Tunisian authorities have not issued any official statements on the situation.
 

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