Heartland Magazine is deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the Libyan-Tunisian border, where refugees and migrants are facing dire circumstances. Libyan border guards have reported that approximately 150 individuals enter Libya from Tunisia every day after being expelled.
Tragically, at least 27 people from sub-Saharan Africa have lost their lives in recent days due to extreme heat and abandonment. The bodies were discovered in a vast area south of the northern crossing, where temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius. Shockingly, refugees and migrants have alleged that they were forced to trek for days without access to water, food, or shelter.
The situation has raised serious allegations against Tunisia, with Libyan border guards and rights groups accusing the country of conducting “collective expulsions” in remote, uninhabitable areas far away from any semblance of civilization. This practice came into effect after violence erupted in the port city of Sfax in July, leading Tunisia to initiate the expulsion of Black African migrants and asylum seekers.
Although local residents have expressed their concerns about the behavior of refugees, the plight of the expellees cannot be ignored. Many refugees have reported racist attacks, exacerbating an already dire situation. One such example is Tafaul Omar, who claims to have been abandoned in the border area with insufficient water while being pregnant, after her husband was subjected to physical assault and verbal abuse in Tunisia.
While the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior denies the allegations of dumping refugees and migrants in the desert, and the President of Tunisia has dismissed the reports as misinformation, international organizations have expressed deep concern for the safety of those who have been forcibly relocated to desolate border areas. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have called for urgent action to protect the rights and well-being of these vulnerable individuals.
It is crucial to highlight the context surrounding this crisis. Thousands of migrants in Tunisia have attempted to make their way to Europe this year due to a government crackdown led by President Kais Saied. This crackdown has further exacerbated the already dire conditions faced by refugees and migrants in the region.
Heartland Magazine urges all stakeholders, including Tunisia, Libya, and the international community, to take immediate action to address this humanitarian crisis. It is imperative to prioritize the safety and well-being of these individuals, providing them with the necessary support, shelter, and access to basic necessities. Only through collective efforts can we ensure a more humane and compassionate response to the plight of refugees and migrants in the region.