The Refugees in Tunisia protesting in front of the UNHCR headquarters in Tunis, March 2023
On April 11th 2023, the refugees and migrants who were carrying out a sit-in in front of the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Tunisian capital Tunis were violently evicted by police forces. For over a month, around 250 people had been holding a peaceful occupation to demand evacuation to a safe country, as their living conditions in Tunisia had become unbearable. Due to the threats posed to the lives of Black migrants and refugees in Tunisia during the prior months (and especially after the racist speech by the Tunisian President end of February), they had turned to the UNHCR to ask for protection.
The UNHCR however failed to support them with even the most basic necessities, such as food, water and shelter, and further escalated the situation by calling the police to evict the protesters’ camp. During the eviction, the police attacked people, including children with tear gas, causing serious injuries.
The UNHCR’s neglect of refugees and the agency’s contribution to the violence faced by people in exile has also been documented in other countries. Refugees in Libya have been denouncing the UNHCR’s inaction in the conflict-ridden country for years. Also in Tunisia, the mistreatment of refugees and migrants by the UNHCR has a long history.
The collection of testimonies below, by the Refugees in Tunisia, shows the degradation of their situation and gives more details about the protest sit-in at the UNHCR in Tunis and its violent eviction. The testimonies were collected in April 2023 by activists based in Tunis.