Tunisia: Libya Deal on Migrant Acceptance at Desert Border

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Diplomacy, Security, Tunisia


On 10 August 2023, the Libyan Foreign Ministry announced that a bilateral agreement had been reached with Tunisia to receive a group of migrants camped near the major land border crossings shared by the two countries.

A group of approximately 300 migrants had been encamped near the border since July when Tunisian authorities relocated them there. The border area is designated as a military zone.

Tunisian authorities agreed to accept approximately 100 of the migrants while Libya will shelter the approximately 200 remaining. The Tunisian Red Crescent is assisting with providing shelter in Medenine and Tatouine. The Red Crescent already sheltered over 600 migrants in July during the initial efforts by Tunisian authorities to relocate migrants from Sfax following the stabbing of a Tunisian man by migrants.

The agreement comes as criticism has continued to build regarding the conditions faced by migrants in Tunisia. Various reports have indicated that over 20 migrants have died after being relocated to the desert areas.

As migrants faced deteriorating conditions in Tunisia, attempts at sea crossing to Europe continued. Over the weekend of 5 – 6 August, a vessel carrying dozens of migrants sank off the coast of Sfax. At least 11 bodies were recovered with dozens more migrants still missing.


The agreement comes as Tunisia and the country’s European benefactors faced growing criticism over the treatment of migrants, particularly following the recent partnership announced between the EU and Tunisia.

In the near-term, this agreement may help deflect criticism as the groups of migrants encamped in the desert have drawn significant international media attention. However, the systemic challenges to addressing the overlapping challenges of irregular migration remain.

Conditions for irregular migrants are likely to remain difficult in the near-term and the risks to sub-Saharan Africans generally remains elevated as tensions over migration and economic challenges continue.


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