Tunisia: Migrant Smugglers Disrupted as Criticism of Policies Swells

by | Jan 11, 2024 | Diplomacy, Security, Tunisia


On 8 January 2024, multiple reports indicated that security operations had disrupted human smuggling networks in Tunisia. 

Some reports indicated that a smuggling network transporting migrants to Italy was disrupted, leading to the arrest of four individuals and the seizure of vehicles and cash. 

Additional reports indicated that over 60 individuals were arrested, perhaps in separate operations, targeting a network facilitating irregular migration. A steel boat was also confiscated. 

The operations come as criticism from domestic and international human rights advocacy groups has swelled regarding Tunisia’s treatment of irregular migrants. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights raised ongoing concerns about the expulsion of migrants by security forces to desert areas along Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya. 

The issue of expulsions was heavily covered by news media in July 2023 when hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans were bussed to desert areas and not permitted to re-enter Tunisian territory at that time. These actions drew broad international criticism. 


While the overall flow of migrants across the Mediterranean has slowed during the winter months, largely due to cold weather and unpredictable sea conditions, thousands of irregular migrants continue to make their way northward through Libya and Algeria. 

As conditions deteriorate in sub-Saharan African countries and some governments become more openly hostile to the European Union (EU) and its migration policies, migrant flows will likely continue to surge. 

With pressure from the EU, Tunisia is working to manage the arrival of thousands of migrants searching for opportunities to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. With few options for repatriation and limited resources to manage arriving migrants, conflicts between migrants and Tunisian security forces are likely to continue, creating challenging security dynamics particularly in Tunisia’s coastal cities. 


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