Tunisia – A Stop for Forced Immigration from Europe

On November 29, a plane coming from the Italian Palermo Airport landed at Tabarka Airport, northwest of Tunisia, carrying dozens of forcibly deported migrants from Italy, including the young man, Taha Hammouda.

According to our sources in immigration affairs, this trip is not the first and will not be the last. The increased trips over the past few months have made Tabarka airport, which has been closed for years, more like a border point for forcibly deported migrants from Europe as part of a ‘secret’ deal secret with the Tunisian authorities.

Taha spoke to our sources with agony and sadness of his journey, as he decided to board a boat from the coast of the Tunisian city of Sfax towards the Italian island of Lampedusa, after he could not find ways to rejoin his foreign wife as the French authorities refuse to grant him a legal travel visa.

He added, 40 people, including women, participated in the 4-day death journey due to bad weather, after which the rickety boat arrived towards the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they were received in the accommodation center for two days and then they were quarantined in an Italian naval vessel for 10 days.

Their suffering began with the end of the quarantine, where he could not escape from Italian territory into France, but the deportation vehicle was waiting for him and two Italian policemen tied him in chains, after a humiliating inspection to be transferred to a prison, and then forcibly deported to Tunisia to sign a paper to this effect.

Taha feels bitter because all he asked for is the right to move freely and meet his French wife, however, confirms his readiness to ride the sea again, regardless of the consequences to reunite with the family.

Our organisation considers it a violation of the rights of these migrants, especially as some of them are waiting for their status to be settled.

The security measures adopted by the Tunisian side and European countries in dealing with the phenomenon of migration, which has increased in frequency during the past months, disregards all international treaties on the phenomenon of migration and the natural right of move freely and travel.

Recent figures obtained by our organisation confirm that the number of Tunisian migrants who have been detained in asylum centers in Italy has reached 2,623 out of a total of 4,387 people, or 59.5%, while these people account for the largest proportion of the number of deportees compared to other nationalities.

The period between January 1 and April 30, 2021 saw the deportation of 618 Tunisian immigrants out of 1,097 of all nationalities, or 56.3%.

We stress the need for the European authorities to stop deporting migrants to them, especially that these procedures violate international laws and norms regulating this matter, and that forcibly returnees to their countries may be subjected to torture and imprisonment in many cases, and we also stress the need to move internationally to pressure European countries to stop their procedures and we also call on the Tunisian government not to allow the forced displacement of citizens of other countries to its territory and not to accept that a country detains migrants fleeing tragic conditions in their countries.

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