By Alarm Phone Tunis and Alarm Phone Palermo

With 2,308 Tunisian nationals deported from Italy in 2022 (1,872 in 2021), representing 59% of the total number of deportees, followed by Albania and Egypt, with 518 and 329 people respectively, Tunisians arriving in Italy are confronted with a violation of their most basic right, international protection.

In 2011, a bilateral agreement was signed between Tunisia and Italy designed to carry out mass expulsions of Tunisian nationals arriving by boat on Italian shores. Like the majority of agreements signed between Tunisia and the European Union and its member states, this agreement gives unequal and inequitable access to the right of freedom of movement. Another agreement was signed in 2020, which would allow Italy to expel almost twice the number of Tunisians, i.e. 80 people a week. 

After the coup d’état of July 25, 2021, the political situation in Tunisia is increasingly dangerous and worsening by the day. Arrests and ongoing repression of political opponents, activists, trade unionists and journalists, ever-intensifying police violence and the criminalization of the LGBTQ++ community facing systematic and daily violence makes Tunisia an unsafe country of origin.

Tunisian nationals arriving by boat to Italy are all stigmatized and as soon as they arrive, they are sorted in big groups solely based on their nationality without any assessment of their individual case throughout their “stay” in Italy. They receive no or partial information about their rights in Italy, as well as the reason for their detention and the outcome of their case. Tunisian migrants do not benefit from an appropriate and neutral translation, knowing that most of them do not speak Italian and that the only people they can speak with are translators. 

Demonstration for Wissem Ben Abdellatif, Photo: Silvia Di Meo

Marwan* a young Tunisian man who was recently deported from Italy after spending one and a half months in the Trapani Detention Center, emphasized the fact that during the time he spent in the CPR of Trapani and Center of Pantelleria he never received any valuable information. 

“ At first when I arrived in Pantelleria, it was my first time after several attempts, the only thing the translator at the port asked me about was the trip organizer and how we reached Italy. During the 8 days of my stay in the Pantelleria Center, I have seen the translator only once he brought me a phone to call my family and informed me that as a Tunisian I can’t ask for asylum and therefore it is unnecessary that I even ask about it because they will anyways not care about what I ask for. No one ever told me about my rights although the center was not crowded and we were only 75 people there. 

In Trapani as well, I have met several translators, not only they told me on several occasions that as a Tunisian I do not have the right to seek international protection but also whenever I ask them about the reason of our detention, when will we go out of detention and if we will be deported or not they do not give us any information. I remember very well the day we went to an office where there were police officers and they asked us to sign papers, although the papers were in Italian and Arabic, but not only we had no time to read it but also when I asked I would like to read it the translator told me just sign it, I asked what if I don’t sign it, she sarcastically answered, “Don’t worry, even if you will not sign it we will sign it on your behalf and with your name.