Mapping violations suffered by people on the move in Tunisia

18 December 2023

The report, Routes of Torture: Mapping violations suffered by people on the move in Tunisia, published by OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture) highlights the scale and nature of human rights violations committed in Tunisia between July and October 2023 against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Since October 2022, Tunisia has seen a gradual intensification of violations against people on the move, mainly of sub-Saharan origin, against a backdrop of racial discrimination. The presidential speech of February 21, 2023 made them even more vulnerable, and July 2023 represented a turning point in the scale and type of human rights violations committed, with an upsurge in arbitrary arrests and detentions, arbitrary and forced displacements, resulting in ill-treatment, torture, disappearances and, in several cases, deaths. This cycle of abuse begins with a situation of irregularity, which increases their vulnerability and exposes them to the risk of further violations.

However, despite the scale of the violations inflicted, these have been largely hushed up, further raising the profile of an already marginalized population. Through the voices of direct victims of violations who wanted to share their suffering with OMCT, this report aims to contribute to countering this dynamic of invisibilization of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

The report is based on more than 30 interviews with representatives of partner organizations and activists working throughout Tunisia, and some 20 direct testimonies of victims of violence documented by OMCT and its partners. It maps out the violations inflicted on migrants, including forced evictions from their homes, physical and psychological violence by both citizens and security agents, denial of access to healthcare, arbitrary arrests, and detentions, arbitrary and forced displacement within Tunisia, particularly to border areas, and deportations to Algeria and Libya. Interactions with law enforcement agencies are generally accompanied by torture and ill-treatment, while victims are effectively deprived of the right to appeal against what they are subjected to.

This institutional violence indiscriminately affects people on the move, irrespective of their status, whether legal or illegal, including refugees and asylum seekers. Today, the victims – men, women and children – number in the thousands. At the time of publication of this report, violations are continuing with increasing intensity and gravity, under the guise of combating illegal immigration and criminal human trafficking networks. As a result, Tunisia cannot be considered a safe country for people on the move.

This report aims to inform the migration policies of Tunisian, European and African decision-makers towards a decisive consideration of the dramatic and counter-productive human impact of current policies.

Report (in French)

ECHOES Issue 10, January 2024 – English