EU-Tunisia Mobility Partnership: Externalisation policy in disguise

One year ago, almost to the day, a number of our organisations urged the implicated authorities to guarantee the full respect of the fundamental rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the framework of the negotiations that were about to begin.

We have several reasons to believe that this call has not been heard.

On the one hand, civil society has not been involved in the negotiating process, although the issues at play in the partnership constitute part of their daily work with regards to the protection of human rights.

On the other hand, the situation of migrants and refugees in Tunisia remains very worrying - in particular that of women and children. Following the closure of the Shousha camp, presented as a definite solution to the problems faced by asylum seekers in Tunisia, many men and women still lack basic rights: the right to a residence permit, to work, and to access social benefits. This, despite repeated declarations made by Tunisian authorities. Tunisia has yet to adopt any legislation on asylum, and the presence of UNHCR alone is not enough to guarantee access to international protection for those who are entitled to it.

Irregular entries are still criminalised, despite of and in contradiction with the process of democratic transition. Migrants, who lack access to legal representation and to fundamental legal guarantees, can be held up to one year in detention before being deported. Furthermore, at a time when the Council of Europe has reaffirmed ‘the right of everyone to leave a country’ as enshrined in International Law, Tunisia continues to prosecute Tunisian women and men for ‘crimes of clandestine emigration’.

Finally, the provisions included in this ‘Mobility Partnership’ do not provide Tunisian citizens with real opportunities to enter and live in the European Union. It limits itself to facilitating the issuance of visas to the most privileged and/or qualified persons, while the employment possibilities evoked are remote and are void of any concrete prospects. These commitments are insufficient when compared to the obligations imposed on Tunisia within the framework of the partnership, including tighter border controls, cooperation with Frontex, and the signature of a readmission agreement.

In this highly concerning context, our organisations call on the EU and Tunisia to translate into concrete actions their commitments to promoting and protecting human rights, and to facilitate freedom of movement for all Tunisian citizens. No so-called ‘mobility’ partnership should be signed until the rights of migrants and refugees are fully guaranteed.

Consequently, our organisations urge:

  To adopt a moratorium on all negotiations and on the implementation of all migration agreements with the EU and its member states, which are in breach of the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and which are inconsistent with the international treaties ratified by Tunisia and EU member states;
  To refuse signing, in all circumstances, any readmission agreement with the EU and/or its member states.
  To consult Tunisian civil society organisations regarding the country’s migration policy and the bilateral and international agreements it has signed in this respect;
  To adopt laws on asylum and migration that guarantee the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in accordance with the international treaties ratified by Tunisia, and that ban all forms of discrimination and exclusion of these populations;
  To oppose deportation and detention of migrants in Europe and to put an end to detention and deportation of migrants in Tunisia, which is in violation of relevant provisions found in international human rights law;
  To remove sanctions for unauthorised entry, residence or exit and repeal without delay the law of 3 February 2004 criminalising migrants, in breach of international treaties;
  To ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families as well as ILO Conventions 97 and 143 on migrant workers.

The European Union:

  To radically change its migration policies, currently shaped by security considerations and based on the externalisation of migration control;
  To put an end to its policy of detaining irregular migrants, in violation of their fundamental rights as stipulated in International Law;
  To suspend negotiations on migration with Tunisia until the country acquires stable institutions, an elected parliamentary assembly with full authority on the issue, and respects and protects the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers by, among other things, adopting legislation on migration in full conformity with international law;
  To exclude readmission clauses from all partnerships and agreements signed with Tunisia, in view of the frequent violations of the rights of migrants and refugees in the implementation of readmission procedures, of the criminalisation of ‘illegal’ entry and exit in Tunisia and of the risk of refoulement and deportation faced by third country nationals;
  To develop a cooperation policy based on the concrete implementation of the ‘more for more’ approach, which aims at supporting democratic progress and reinforcing the protection of human rights, in particular relating to the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in third countries;
  To engage in a real mobility policy for Tunisians that is not limited to a privileged category of persons but targets all Tunisian citizens;
  To ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families and encourage its member states to do so as well;
  To ensure the respect of the rights of women and children refugees and guarantee their protection against trafficking, in line with the Palermo Protocol of 2000;
  To involve European and Tunisian civil society organisations in the framework of all migration agreements, both during the negotiation process and in the application of these agreements.

Tunis-Paris-Copenhagen-Brussels, 3 December, 2013


Tunisian organisations
Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT)
Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD)
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES)
Coordination of the Forum for Tunisian Immigration (CAIT)

International organisations
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)