After being stranded at sea for three weeks, 64 Bangladeshi nationals have been allowed to disembark in Tunisia and are being repatriated to Bangladesh. According to relatives at least 30 were under pressure to accept return. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitating their returns denies the allegations.

A group of 75 migrants of which 64 were Bangladeshi nationals stranded off the coast of Tunisia for three weeks after authorities denied disembarkation with reference to overcrowded reception facilities. All 64 Bangladeshi nationals are set to return to Bangladesh and IOM has confirmed that two groups of 32 people have already been returned. Relatives of the group are questioning whether the returns were voluntary and the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (FTDES), an NGO working for social and economic rights, stated: “We doubt that the decisions to return were made voluntarily by the migrants”. Further, the organisation reports that despite requests for visits, the location of the migrants was not revealed and inquiries about their well-being were hindered.

IOM rejects the allegations and head of mission in Tunisia, Lorena Lando stated “IOM does not do deportation, nor force anyone to return”, and that “remaining at sea was not a solution either. It is up to the person to also apply for asylum if they fear persecution … or seek help to return home or take time to decide”.

In May, 65 migrants died when their vessel capsized off the coast of Tunisia on its way from Libya adding to the 164 lost deaths on the route in the first four month of 2019.

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Photo: (cc) Conor Luddy

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.