Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) has accused the Tunisian government of orchestrating a campaign of repression against migrants to ensure a steady stream of financial and logistical support from Europe amid ongoing violations of refugee rights. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has noted a decrease in the number of migrants present in Libya as interceptions by the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard continue. UN agencies as well as the EU marked 100 days of war of devastation, mass displacement, killing and deprivation of rights in Gaza amid calls for a ceasefire. for the urgency of the EU The EU will grant Egypt additional funds to Egypt for border surveillance and search and rescue operations at sea amid concerns over the authoritarian policies of Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi.
Amid ongoing mass expulsions and abuse of migrants by the Tunisian authorities, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) has accused the Tunisian government of orchestrating a campaign of repression against migrants to ensure a steady stream of financial and logistical support from Europe. The statement by FTDES highlights testimonies of severe climatic conditions and expulsions towards the Libyan border, leading to the confinement of individuals in detention centers. The humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has recently shared a story of a migrant named Samuel on his journey from Libya to Tunisia to Europe. In Libya, he recalls how “hard” it was for his wife whenever he was detained, stating that the unbearable living conditions and risk of detention forced him to head to Tunisia from where his wife and little son attempted in June 2023 to cross the Mediterranean. “When my wife and son attempted to cross, their boat with about 50 people capsized and my wife drowned. My son and others survived”, Samuel told MSF. He added that the Tunisian officers later expelled him together with his son and others to the border with Libya, leaving them “between life and death”. Additionally, the Tunisian Forum criticized the European governments for their involvement in policies that seemingly neglect human rights and migrant rights, referring to the “ill-edged” EU’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Tunisian president, Kais Said. FTDES has also stated that “the Tunisian coastguard’s partners, especially Germany and Italy, are adopting Tunisia’s narrative” on multiple reports about the theft of refugee boats’ engines by the Tunisian coast guard aimed at preventing crossings to Italy. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has written that Tunisia’s coast guard doesn’t systematically steal engines of migrants’ boats but “temporarily dismantled boat engines in individual cases to enable sea rescue operations”. Germany’s presentation of the dismantlement of boat engines as an aid for sea rescue is “perfidious”, said Clara Bünge, a left-party politician. Meanwhile, protests have erupted in the town of El Hancha after some 37 irregular migrants and asylum seekers have gone missing off the coast of Sfax in Tunisia. The families of the missing migrants are frustrated about THE lack of news which was described by the brother of a missing migrant, Mohammed Jlaiel, as “torturous”, adding: “We’re desperate for a piece of news on them,” he continued. ”They were all our neighbours and friends. The whole [of] Hancha is in pain. My mom is in a terrible state.” MEP Majdi Karbai said the missing people are “the latest victims of Europe’s migration policies”.
According to a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 697,532 migrants from over 45 nationalities are present in the 100 Libyan municipalities during the 49th round of data collection between July and September 2023. The organization highlighted that the number of migrants in Libya has continued to decrease slightly compared to the previous round of data collection (from 704,369 migrants, round 48 to 697,532 migrants, round 49). Meanwhile, interceptions by the EU-funded so-called Libyan Coast Guard continue. 1,234 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya between 24 and 30 December 2023 while 119 others were intercepted between 7 and 13 January 2024.
The Commissioner-General of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, in a statement, marked on 13 January the 100 days of war “since the devastating war started, killing and displacing people in Gaza, following the horrific attacks that Hamas and other groups carried out against people in Israel”. Lazzarini highlighted that Israel’s sustained bombardments on Gaza created the “largest displacement of the Palestinian people since 1948” and a humanitarian crisis. “The crisis in Gaza is a man-made disaster compounded by dehumanizing language and the use of food, water and fuel as instruments of war. The humanitarian operation has fast become one of the most complex and challenging in the world; largely due to cumbersome procedures for the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip and a myriad of obstacles to the safe and orderly distribution of aid, including ongoing hostilities”, the Commissioner-General underlined, reiterating calls for a humanitarian ceasefire “to stop the killing of people in Gaza and enable the safe delivery of food, medicine, water and shelter”. On the same occasion, the Vice-President of the European Commission Joseph Borell, who said earlier that “Israel has the right to defend itself, but some of its actions since Hamas’ unprecedented assault on Saturday “counter” international humanitarian law”, published an article stating: “With 23,000 Palestinians dead according to the Palestinian health authorities, the vast majority of them women and children, and an increasingly catastrophic humanitarian situation for the more than two million inhabitants of the enclave – almost all of whom are now displaced – it is urgent to put an end to the fighting and release all hostages”. Borell has also highlighted the “urgency for the EU to intensify its involvement in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Meanwhile, the EU has not taken a position on the landmark lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. The case, brought by South Africa, claims that Israel’s siege of Gaza amounts to genocide and breaches the post-Holocaust 1948 Genocide Convention. A European Commission spokesperson reaffirmed the bloc’s support for the ICJ but stopped short of backing the genocide case against Israel. “Regarding this specific case, countries have the right to submit cases or lawsuits. The European Union is not part of this lawsuit,” Peter Stano, spokesperson for foreign affairs, said, adding “This is not for us to comment at all.” In the European Parliament, MEPS on 18 January adopted a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire and the restart of efforts towards a political solution provided that all hostages are immediately and unconditionally released, and Hamas is dismantled. The resolution demanded the urgent need for “full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to and throughout the entire Gaza Strip”, a European initiative to put the two-state solution back on track, an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories highlighting the illegality of the Israeli settlements under international law and accountability for “those responsible for terrorist acts and for violations of international law”.
Meanwhile, the European Commission will grant €87m to Egypt that will be dedicated to increasing the operation capacity of the Egyptian navy and border guards for border surveillance and search and rescue operations at sea. The €87 million may increase up to €110 million after the next EU-Egypt Association Council meeting on 23 January, according to media outlet Euractive, despite the EU’s asylum agency’s (EUAA) 2023 reporting the absence of irregular departures from the Egyptian coasts as most Egyptian migrants attempt to cross from Libya. Reportedly, the additional funds will be used for capacity-building activities organised by IOM to Egyptian authorities. Journalist, Olivier Cyran, commented on the issue, saying: “The European Union pays an additional 87 million euros to Marshal Sissi’s regime for policing its borders and repressing migrants. The money will be used to “strengthen the surveillance capabilities of the navy and coast guard”. (translated).
For further information:
- ECRE, EU External Partners: Latest Investigation Revealing European Authorities’ Complicity in Pullbacks Carried Out by Libyan Militia; Abuses by so-called Libyan and Tunisian Coastguard Continue; EU Strengthens Co-operation with Egypt and Morocco, UN Vote for Ceasefire Indicates Israel Losing EU Support, December 2023
- ECRE, EU External Partners: UN SG Points to “Unparalleled and Unprecedented” Civilian Death Toll in Gaza Amid Deepening Humanitarian Crisis, as Hopes are on “Pause” EU Remains Split, Largely Irrelevant and Focused on Deterrence of Access to Europe, November 2023