For the two last months, Tunisia has been highly pressured, notably by Italy, into the strengthening of its borders’ control and the readmission of its nationals landed in Lampedusa. Silvio Berlusconi’s visit, on this April 4th, aims at securing such commitments of the Tunisian government, and this in the spite of the many calls launched by Migrants Rights Defence Organizations as well as the exceptional situation the country has to face. Tunisia is living historical moments and has to take on considerable challenges regarding democracy building. The situation brings high hopes, but remains complex and is also getting particularly tricky by the war over Libya. Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, Tunisia has hosted more than 200 000 persons, which is six times more than Italy. Even if most of the persons landed in Tunisia have now been repatriated, thousands remained blocked in borders’ camp because they can’t join their home country, Ivory Coast, Eritrea and Somalia being at war.
It is hypocritical and immoral for the EU, to rejoice with the Tunisian revolution on the one hand, whereas it requires Tunisia to be its border guard on the other hand. Such a position remains guided by the so-called necessity to prevent Europe from a “migratory flood”, which prevailed at the time of Ben Ali’s dictatorship. On the contrary, it is urgent to acknowledge the democratic change that has occurred and to rebuild the EU-Tunisia relationship with fair and transparent roots. European states cannot answer to this on going democratic transition by a repressive policy against migrants, in using the threat of a collective expulsion.
Not only should such a threat be lifted, but EU member states have to welcome in dignity those who arrived in Europe in the past weeks. For more than one month, the management of the situation by the Italian government has been mainly based on arbitrariness and incoherence. The way Tunisians are treated in some detention centers in Italy, the hunt on migrants in the South of France, and the ping-pong game many fall subject to a the French-Italian border, are unacceptable. It is, lastly, intolerable that the European Union let Tunisia take care alone of people fleeing Libya with no possibility to return to their country. The European Union has the duty to be up to the situation in taking the Tunisian example of welcoming all the people escaping Libya as a model.
Exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures to be taken, and the EU has all necessary tools, both legal and political, at its disposal to face them. Member states should therefore, with no further delay, face up to their own responsibilities, and :
• Declare an immediate moratorium on the expulsion of Tunisian nationals to Tunisia ;
• Grant admission to stay under exceptional circumstances to Tunisian nationals who already arrived in France and Italy ;
• Guarantee access to the European territory for all the people in seek of protection and to refrain from all measures or agreements which may impede it ;
• Implement the temporary protection mechanism enshrined in the directive from 20th July, 2001 to the benefit of all those who may be entitled to it ;
• Welcome, within a resettlement framework, refugees currently at the Tunisian-Libyan border who wish to be resettled ;
• Grant asylum or protection to all the people who cannot be repatriated due to the situation in their country of origin ; It matters, on the short run, to set up a European aid and cooperation programme with Tunisia to enable its nationals to enter member states regularly for the purpose of working or studying.
Signatory organisations : ABCDS (Mo), ACORT (F), AMDH (Mo), APDHA (ES), ARCI (I), ASGI (I), CIRE (B), FTCR (F), GADEM (Mo), GISTI (F), La Cimade (F), LDH (B), Migreurop, SOS Racismo (Es), LDH (F).