Migrants holding a protest in front of the UNHCR building in Zarzis, Tunisia on February 14, 2022 | Photo: Tassnim Nasri/AA/picture-alliance
Migrants holding a protest in front of the UNHCR building in Zarzis, Tunisia on February 14, 2022 | Photo: Tassnim Nasri/AA/picture-alliance

Refugees and migrants are protesting in front of the UNCHR offices in Zarzis in southeastern Tunisia demanding evacuation to other countries.

More than 250 refugees and migrants in Tunisia continue to demand evacuation to other countries, after reportedly being evicted from their homes in Zarzis, a town in the southeastern part of the country.

In response they have been staging a sit-in protest in front of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Tunisian coastal town since February.

One of the protesters, Abdulrasoul Ibrahim from Sudan, told InfoMigrants that the situation is becoming very difficult for refugees in Tunisia. After protesting for over 50 days the migrants and refugees are facing threats and continued hardship. "We are in need [of] urgent assistance for evacuation [from] Tunisia", he explains in a series of direct messages and tweets that many of the protestors are also facing health issues and are not being provided with any assistance.

The protestors, many of whom are women and children, have been spending the night on cardboard boxes spread out on the ground amid suitcases containing their personal belongings.

"We need to be evacuated," reads a banner they have hung at the entrance to the building.

The majority of protestors have been stranded in the country after being rescued off the coast of Tunisia following failed attempts to reach the European continent by sea.

Abandoned by the UN

They have denounced the United Nations' inaction, Saleh Saeed, a Sudanese national from Darfur told Agence France-Presse: "The real problem is, the UN commission has abandoned its main role, which is our protection. Instead of doing that, it has left us on the street. We were living in Zarzis, and the UN commission demanded our evacuation from there, cut off all funds and stopped protecting us."

19-year-old Mohamed Nour from Chad told Africa News that life in the North African country has been marred by frequent instances of racism against migrants and refugees, especially towards Sudanese and Sub Saharan Africans. "We have been attacked in our homes. We just want to be evacuated from this country."

Increase in deaths off Tunisian coast

Tunisia is struggling economically and politically with many of its own citizens facing unemployment, leading to an increase in the number of attempted sea crossings towards Italy. However, Tunisian nationals are quickly repatriated, under bilateral accords between Rome and Tunis because Tunisia is designated as a safe country for returnees.

Earlier this month, two migrant boats overturned off the coast of Tunisia in the space of a few hours with six children and six women among the dead. Rescuers pulled 37 survivors from the water, reported AFP, but "dozens more" were unaccounted for.

Deaths at sea continue to rise, as hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Also read: Migrants deported to Tunisia from Italy mistreated, NGOs


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