On Thursday, UN human rights experts condemned the deplorable living conditions facing migrants and asylum seekers near the Libyan-Tunisian border, noting that they lacked access to shelter, food, water, and medical care.
In a joint statement, the UN experts denounced Tunisia’s recent collective expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers, amid allegations that they were subjected to brutal racism and arbitrarily expelled to dangerous conditions in Libya.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety, dignity, physical integrity and living conditions of the migrants, particularly pregnant women and children, who are stranded at the Tunisia-Libya border,” the UN experts said. Tunisia’s expulsion of these migrants and asylum seekers, as well as its continued denial of their re-entry, may violate Tunisia’s obligations under international law, they added.
Tunisia was reminded of its non-refoulement obligations, which require states to not return individuals to countries, such as Libya, where they faced the threat being subjected to torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, or other irreparable harm. A number of migrants were reportedly beaten and threatened by Tunisian authorities, they alleged.
“We are alarmed over reports that some migrants that were trying to seek entry to Tunisia, including one child, have been abducted by an unidentified group of armed men and held captive in Libya,” the experts added. “Several others have been reportedly detained by Libyan authorities and taken to detention centres. We remind Libyan authorities of their obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the fundamental human rights of migrants including their right to life, liberty, security, health, food, shelter and water and sanitation.”
The majority of the migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa, “this raises major concerns that these people are being subjected to violations of their human rights in Tunisia and Libya on a racialized basis, especially in light of reports we have received of increasing racist and xenophobic treatment of sub-Saharan African migrants,” the UN experts said.
“We recall that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires that governments protect everyone from racialized violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution.”