EU-Tunisia mobility partnerships

Reduced mobility without rights?

As the European Union and Tunisia prepare to begin discussions on a “mobility agreement” on 6 December 2012 in Tunis, the Euro-mediterranean Human Rights network (EMHRN), the International federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Tunisian forum for economic and social Rights (FTDES), the European association for the defense of Human Rights (AEDH), the organization Migreurop and the Centre of Tunis for migration and asylum (CeTuMA) call upon the EU and the government of Tunisia to ensure that any agreement concluded in the context of the partnership on migrations is based on the unconditional guarantee of the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Our organisations are concerned about the stated desire to reach agreement on migrations as quickly as possible even though the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia are currently not protected because the country has no system for guaranteeing the right to asylum, the right to non-refoulement or the rights of foreign nationals in general.

Accordingly, the EMHRN, the FIDH, the FTDES, the AEDH, Migreurop and the CeTuMA urge the EU to translate into tangible actions its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights that is now part of its new Neighbourhood Policy in matters related to migration, as well as its commitment to facilitate the free movement of the nationals of partner countries. The EU must now, more than ever, reform its migration policy. Migration policy can and must become an instrument that contributes to the democratic transitions currently taking place. There is a pressing need to allow all residents of partner countries to move freely, without any preconditions.

And last, given what is at stake in the mobility negotiations, our organisations urge the EU and Tunisia to adopt a transparent and participative approach and to consult European and Tunisian civil society as part of these discussions. The two parties must also demonstrate a genuine commitment to promote and protect human rights and must refrain from signing any agreement that does not guarantee genuine mobility for the people of the South and does not include tangible protections for the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.


Since October 2011, the European Union and Tunisia have been negotiating a mobility partnership. That partnership agreement would require Tunisia to make a commitment with regard to the integrated management of borders, migration flows and the readmission of clandestine migrants originally from Tunisia or assumed to have transited through Tunisia, including nationals of third countries. This, despite the fact that unauthorised emigration is penalised in Tunisia, contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thus exposing the nationals of Tunisia and those of other countries to the risk of being prosecuted, penalised or expelled after being readmitted. In return, the EU would promise Tunisia greater flexibility in its procedures for granting short-term visas, as well as access to new migrant-worker procedures in response to needs identified by EU member states.

The EMHRN, the FIDH, the FTDES, the AEDH, Migreurop and the CeTuMA note that the so-called “mobility” offered by the EU as part of this new agreement would be extremely limited, since the more open approach to visa procedures and employment opportunities for Tunisians in Europe would benefit only a small segment of Tunisia’s population and would not represent in any way a genuine response to the demands of Tunisians, especially with respect to family reunification.

Indeed, mobility appears to be only a small part of this agreement, which is more focused on security concerns and on ensuring cooperation between Tunisia and Frontex in border control and illegal migration, without any reference to the root causes of migration or to the rights of migrants.

Against this background, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, in commenting on his most recent visit to Tunisia on 8 June 2012, called upon the European Union “to develop a more nuanced policy of migration cooperation with Tunisia, which moves beyond security issues to develop new initiatives in consultation and in real partnership with Tunisian authorities, which place at their core the respect, protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants.”

Accordingly, our organisations call upon


  • to consult Tunisia’s elected representatives and civil society on the country’s migration policy and its international agreements in that area;
  • to adopt laws on asylum and on migration that will guarantee the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in compliance with the international treaties ratified by Tunisia;
  • to adopt a moratorium on all negotiations and on the implementation of all migration agreements with the European Union that violate the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and are contrary to the international treaties ratified by Tunisia and EU member states;
  • to reject the expulsion of migrants from Europe and to oppose the containment of migrants in the European Union and in Tunisia itself;
  • to repeal the 2004 legislation that criminalises migrants in violation of international treaties;
  • to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;
  • to remove the penalties imposed for unauthorised entry and residency.

The European Union and its Member States:

  • to put an end to its policy of externalising its borders and to amend the security focus of its migration management policies;
  • to suspend negotiations on migrations with Tunisia until the latter adopts migration legislation that is fully compliant with the standards set out in international treaties on the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers;
  • to exclude the readmission clause from all partnerships and agreements signed with Tunisia in view of the numerous violations of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers that mar the implementation of readmission procedures, penalise illegal entry into and exit from Tunisia, and expose the nationals of third countries the risk of refoulement or expulsion;
  • to develop a policy of cooperation based on the concrete implementation of the “giving more to receive more” approach aimed at supporting democratic progress and strengthening the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in third countries;
  • to commit to a policy of genuine mobility for Tunisians that is not limited to highly skilled people ;
  • to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

December the 5th 2012

Nicanor Haon (French/English/Spanish) +216 52 70 18 71