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Europe Concerned over Migration as Tunisia Facilitates Refugee Departures

Thousands of Black individuals in Tunisia’s city of Sfax were recently rounded up by Tunisian and transported to Al Amra, a major departure point for refugees attempting to reach Europe. This mass operation took place as European leaders convened in Italy to discuss the “migration crisis” and limit the number of arrivals on the Italian island of Lampedusa. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced a 10-point plan aimed at addressing the controversial “pact on migration” signed between the EU and Tunisia in July. The plan includes increasing efforts to limit irregular migration and providing support to Tunisia to manage migration on its side of the Mediterranean. However, promised payments for border security and assistance to Tunisia have not yet been received.

Sfax has emerged as a central hub for refugees attempting to reach Europe, with individuals and families from Southern Africa embarking on dangerous journeys through Algeria and Libya to enter Tunisia and secure passage to Europe. Due to lack of proper documentation to rent legally in Sfax, many refugees have been forced to sleep in parks and gardens, leading to tensions with locals. In a massive police operation over the weekend, thousands of undocumented Black individuals were detained, put on buses, and transported out of Sfax to unknown locations, some of which are believed to be Al Amra.

Al Amra is recognized as a significant departure point for sub-Saharan refugees seeking passage to Europe, with a notable presence of Black refugees in the . While police remain deployed in large numbers in and around Sfax, there is little police presence in Al Amra, and the tracks leading to the sea are unguarded. The expelled refugees received no explanation for their forced relocation, and they have been provided with no food, water, or shelter in the isolated village.

The deal signed between the EU and Tunisia in July, aimed at limiting undocumented entries into Italy, has faced criticism for disregarding the of those affected. European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and the EU ombudsman’s office have expressed about the lack of consideration for the rights of migrants and refugees. The relationship between Tunisia and the EU has deteriorated since the migration pact was debated in the European Parliament, leading to Tunisia barring four members of the parliament from entering its territory. Tunisian President Kais Saied has faced criticism for making scapegoats of political opponents and the Black community in Tunisia, with accusations of imprisoning political opponents and characterizing refugees as part of a to change the country’s demographics.

The tensions in Tunisia, particularly in Sfax, have escalated in recent months, with violence erupting and several foreign governments evacuating their citizens. NGOs have accused the Tunisian of forcibly expelling over 1,000 Black individuals to the desert borders with Algeria and Libya. The reaction of European countries to the revelation that many refugees have been expelled to Al Amra, a key departure point for Europe, remains uncertain.

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