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Migrant control moves to North Africa

The government clamps down further on irregular migration amid moves to strike repatriation deals with other countries

President Kaïs Saïed’s government is negotiating a series of repatriation agreements with African countries in an attempt to increase voluntary returns of irregular migrants, Foreign Minister Mounir Ben Rjiba has said.

Ben Rjiba told parliament last week – although he did not specify which other countries were involved – that ‘the number of requests for voluntary repatriation is steadily increasing’.

‘Expulsions are increasing as are operations to counter attempts at irregular migration,’ he said.

Tunisia, which has a ‘cash for migrant control’ deal worth up to €1 billion with the European Union that includes €150 million in direct budget support and €105m for migration control policies, has come under heavy fire over its treatment of sub-Saharan Africans (AC Vol 64 No 16, Bang to rights).

Last week, the United Nation’s human rights chief accused Tunisia of race-based ‘targeting’ of African migrants.

‘We are very concerned by the increased targeting in Tunisia of migrants, mostly from south of the Sahara, and individuals and organisations working to assist them,’ said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Volker Türk.

‘At the same time, we are witnessing a rise in the use of dehumanising and racist rhetoric against black migrants and black Tunisians,’ she added.

There have been multiple reports of arbitrary arrests and detention of sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia who have then been left at the borders with Libya and Algeria. In 2022, the African Union accused Tunisia of racial discrimination against sub-Saharan Africans (Dispatches 28/2/23, AU calls President Saïed's complaints about African migrations 'racialised hate speech').

The European Commission insists that its arrangements with Tunisia and other North African states includes commitments to protect human rights and that it had sought ‘clarification’ about the arrests from the Tunisian authorities.

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