Tunisian desert: Tragic conditions of sub-Saharan migrants
Since the beginning of 2023, the number of boats departing from Tunisia has increased. Estimations show that in the first six months of 2023, 56% of the people arriving in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route embarked in Tunisia; Evidence provided by some refugees raise the possibility that the tunisian security forces are trying to leave the detained migrants in areas inaccessible to the media and NGOs.
Refugees in Tunisia have recently been taken off the streets and directed toward the border with Libya and Algeria, leasing to serious human rights concerns, as many are struggling to survive, with several individuals dying from exhaustion and dehydration. The refugees have been sent to a remote border area with no access to healthcare or other types of humanitarian support to endure the harsh conditions.
The death of a Tunisian man in Sfax, located in the southern part of Tunisia and a well-known hub and departure point for sub-Saharan migrants who want to enter Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, on July 3 heightened hostilities to people from sub-Saharan Africa, forcing them to flee the city by the rise in the violence against them. Keeping refugees, including children and women among whom some are pregnant has exposed many in hazardous conditions. Reports have highlighted two locations where refugees have left stranded on the Tunisian-Libyan border, including one on the coast and another in the middle of the desert.
The conditions are harsh, as there is no water, food, access to healthcare, or even shelter against the hot sun. Some people there have tried to take refuge from the sun under trees, but there is no way to escape the heat, which has led to dehydration of hundreds of refugees expelled from Sfax and stranded along the border. Some reports have highlighted the death of at least 27 people in one case after being expelled from Tunisia towards the Libyan border and their abandonment in the desert, where temperatures are over 40 degrees Celsius. Evidence found in some videos taken from the refugees shows women and even babies in the middle of the desert, where the heat is intense under a blazing sun.
Since the beginning of 2023, the number of boats departing from Tunisia has increased. Estimations show that in the first six months of 2023, 56% of the people arriving in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route embarked in Tunisia; more than double the number as compared to the same period in 2022. The lives and safety of many who managed to flee has been at stake, risked by violence, racist persecution, and a worsening social and political situation.
Evidence provided by some refugees raise the possibility that the tunisian security forces are trying to leave the detained migrants further than ever, in zones inaccessible to the media and NGOs. There have been videos of people asking for assistance after not having anything to eat for a long time and suffering from the intense heat.
Some sources have revealed that around 600 migrants are in the Libyan desert, while Human Rights Watch says at least 150-200 migrants are somewhere in the Algerian desert, without water or food. These people require urgent help, risking their lives if they aren’t saved immediately, as confirmed by already finding dead bodies in the Algerian desert.
Although rescue and aid efforts continue for hundreds of migrants abandoned in desert areas, many others remain stuck in unforgiving conditions of exile in a remote militarized zone, which is as inhospitable as a region can be, generally barred for visitors, humanitarian organizations, or any form of trespassing.