Tunisia: Aid Groups Sheltering Migrants After Outcry Over Relocations

by | Jul 14, 2023 | Security, Social, Tunisia


Sub-Saharan African migrants that had been transported from Sfax to a desert area at the Libyan-Tunisian border received assistance from aid groups this week. The Red Crescent reportedly provided shelter to over 600 migrants initially expelled to desert areas.

The expulsion came after the 3 July stabbing of a local Sfax resident allegedly carried out by a group of Cameroonian migrants. The stabbing came after weeks of growing tensions between local Sfax residents and the increasingly large groups of migrants gathering in the port city to seek sea passage to Europe.

Other groups of migrants reportedly transported to the Algerian border struggled to receive similar assistance, with reports indicating that the bodies of migrants had been discovered along the border area.

The assistance came after an outcry from human rights and aid groups that followed the news of the expulsions of migrants to barren desert areas with little or no resources such as food and water. Videos circulated on social media purporting to show women giving birth in makeshift desert camps. Aid groups reported that many migrants still require assistance and many may still be unaccounted for.

Following the expulsions, migrants have continued to seek passage either to other Tunisians cities such as Sousse and Tunis, or to Europe. Shortly after the desert expulsions, a boat smuggling migrants sunk off the Tunisian coast, killing at least one and leaving many others missing.


With Sfax having become inhospitable for many irregular migrants, groups have sought refuge in other areas of Tunisia. Migrant groups on the move could cause the emergence of similar anti-migrant sentiments in other cities.

Many communities across Tunisia are already stressed economically and migrants could serve as a convenient scapegoat upon whom residents might vent frustration. The tensions preceding the stabbing attack in Sfax appeared driven in part by the concerns among Sfax residents that migrants were beginning to compromise their livelihoods and personal security.

The migration issue continues to dominate Tunisia’s dialogue with international partners and recent actions have drawn new calls for aid contingent upon humane treatment of migrants. Our team is continuing to closely monitor how the migration issue impacts the local security environment on the ground as well as the strategic risk environment amongst Tunisia’s regional partners.


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