North Africa: Tunisia, Libya Announce Deal to Rescue Migrants Stranded on Border

Harare — Tunisia and Libya will split the cost of housing hundreds of migrants who were stuck at their borders, many of whom had been there for more than a month, Al Arabiya reports.

The migrants, who were mostly from sub-Saharan African nations, had been taken by Tunisian authorities to the desert region of Ras Jedir and left there to fend for themselves, according to witnesses, rights organizations, and United Nations agencies. There are still three groups of migrants there, totaling roughly 300, according to humanitarian organizations. At a joint meeting with Libyan officials in Tunis, a spokesman for the Tunisian interior ministry, Faker Bouzghaya, said that “we have agreed to share the groups of migrants who are at the border.”

“Tunisia will take charge of a group of 76 men, 42 women and eight children,” Bouzghaya is reported to have said. Bouzghaya said that the Tunisian Red Crescent assisted in moving the groups on August 9, 2023, to reception centers in the cities of Tatouine and Medenine where they received medical and psychological assistance.

The remaining 150 migrants would be handled by Libya as per the arrangement, according to the report. The bilateral agreement was made public earlier on Thursday by the Libyan interior ministry with the goal of “putting an end to the crisis of irregular migrants stranded in the border area”.

Racial tensions in Tunisia’s second city of Sfax erupted after the July 3 killing of a Tunisian man in an incident with migrants. Human Rights Watch reported that up to 1,200 black Africans were “expelled, or forcibly transferred” by Tunisian security forces to the desert regions that share borders with Libya and Algeria.

Since July, at least 25 deaths of migrants who had been abandoned in the region of the Tunisian-Libyan border have been documented by humanitarian officials.

Attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Tunisia increased in March and April following an explosive speech by President Kais Saied, who claimed that “hordes” of illegal migrants were committing crimes and constituting a demographic threat to the predominantly Arab nation. Since Saied’s comments in February, there have been a rise in xenophobic attacks against black African migrants and students nationwide, and many migrants have lost their employment and housing.

The two North African nations serve as important entry points for people trying risky sea crossings in frequently decrepit boats in search of greener pastures in Europe.

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