Asylum down the drain. Intolerable pressure on Tunisia

Lately, Tunisian authorities have been the target of intolerable pressure by Germany and Italy. Within a week, they have been forced to clarify their opposition to the German as well as to the Italian authorities which were allegedly planning to send migrants and refugees back to Tunisia. Domestic security issues appear as a cornerstone in the cooperation framework imposed to Tunisia albeit being attached to a domain which is clearly distinct from it: the right of asylum.

Pushing for the disembarkation in Tunisia of people intercepted by the Italian coast-guards in exchange for support in counter-terrorism policies, as suggested in an Italian press article, would be in blatant breach of the EU’s as well as Italy’s legal obligations. The latter was actually already condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 for pushing back refugees to Libya and thus for resorting to the exact same practices.

In so doing, Italy would act in pure and unbearable cynicism for the fight against terrorism is a matter of concern not only to Tunisia, but also to the European Union.

This pressure is adding up to claims that the Belgian parliament is considering adopting a readmission clause as part of the conversion of the Tunisian debt into investment by Belgium in Tunisian agreed upon last December 2016.

As Germany, Belgium and Italy are considering listing Tunisia as a « safe » country of origin, our organisations stress that the use of the notion of « safe » country impedes on the right of asylum and that, in any case, the situation in Tunisia does not meet the criteria provided for in European law to deem a country of origin or of transit « safe » (Directive 2013/32/EU).

Tunisia does not have a legal framework protecting refugees and asylum seekers, nor can it offer any reception means to people in need of international protection. There is no safeguard against criminalisation for « unauthorised exit [1] », in violation of the fundamental right to leave any country, or any procedural safeguard for those unwilling to seek asylum and who may be detained and deported in inhumane and degrading conditions.

Pressure on Tunisia has to stop. Instead, the European Union and its Member States should truly commit to the reception of refugees and migrants on their territory, and should effectively support Tunisia in the strengthening of its Rule of Law and the fight against terrorism.

21 February 2017

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Signatory organisations:


Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (ARCI)
Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI)
Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo nei Paesi Emergenti (COSPE)

Afrique Intelligence
African Leaders Union
Citizenship and Freedom Association – Djerba
Cooperation for Development in Emerging Countries (COSPE)
Tunis Centre for Migration and Asylum (CeTUMA)
Tunisian Federation for a Citizenship on both shores of the Mediterranean (FTCR)
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES)
Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT)
Tunisian League for Human Rights
Union for African Students and Interns in Tunisia
UTOPIA Tunisie
Vigilance for Democracy and Civil Registration (Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’Etat Civil)

Diaspora organisations from Tunisia/Maghreb
Association Interculturelle Production Diffusion Documentation (AIDDA)
Association of Maghreb Workers in France (ATMF)
Association of Tunisians in Switzerland (ATTS)
Association of Tunisian Immigrants – Citizens of both shores of the Mediterranean – Grenoble
Association of Tunisians in the North - Lille
Association Le Pont de Genève
Collectif Culture, Création, Citoyenneté - 3C
Committee of Tunisian Immigrants in Italy (CITI)
Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia (CRLDHT)
Democratic Organisation of Tunisians in France (ADTF)
Fahrat Hached Association for Solidarity and Justice
Tunisian Women Group (Collectif des Femmes Tunisiennes CFT)
Tunisian Union for the Action of Citizens (UTAC)
Vigilance Committee for Democracy in Tunisia – Belgium (CVDT)

Regional associations and networks
EuroMed Rights
European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH)