Tunisia and Libya have agreed to share the reception of African migrants who have been stranded near the Ras Jedir border crossing for some, according to multiple accounts.
During a meeting between the interior ministers of both countries in Tunis on Wednesday, they agreed to share the groups of migrants present at the border, according to a spokesperson from the Tunisian ministry.
About 300 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were still stranded in precarious conditions on a strip of land by the sea in the buffer zone of Ras Jedir, according to humanitarian sources.
“Tunisia will take care of a group of 76 men, 42 women, and 8 children,” said the Tunisian spokesperson.
The Libyan Ministry of Interior was the first to announce the conclusion of a bilateral agreement to end the crisis of irregular migrants stuck in the border area. The Tunisian statement only mentioned the need for coordination to find solutions considering the interests of both countries.
The agreement states that Libya will take care of the remaining stranded migrants, about 150 to 200.
“The transfer of the group took place yesterday (Wednesday) to reception centers in Tataouine and Medenine with the participation of the Tunisian Red Crescent,” added the Tunisian spokesperson.
In a new statement on Thursday, the Libyan ministry announced that there were no more irregular migrants in the border area after the bilateral agreement. Patrols are being organized in coordination between the two countries to secure the border.
About 350 people, including 12 pregnant women and 65 children, were stranded at Ras Jedir, with most of the aid being provided by the Libyan Red Crescent and UN agencies since July 20.
Since July 3, when a Tunisian was killed in a fight with migrants in Sfax, the epicenter of illegal immigration in Tunisia, “at least 2,000 sub-Saharan nationals” have been “expelled” by Tunisian security forces and deposited in inhospitable areas on the Libyan and Algerian borders, according to humanitarian sources.
On July 12, the Tunisian Red Crescent sheltered about 630 people rescued in Ras Jedir. It also took care of about 200 others who were initially turned back to Algeria.
In the following weeks, various media outlets, including AFP, documented that more than 350 migrants were still at Ras Jedir, based on accounts from migrants, Libyan border guards, and NGOs.
Hundreds of other migrants also arrive in Libya from Tunisia, near Al’Assah, 40 kilometers south of Ras Jedir, wandering without food or water until Libyan guards come to their aid, as observed by an AFP team in early August.
From its headquarters in New York, the UN denounced on August 1 “the expulsion of migrants from Tunisia to Libya” and called for “the immediate cessation of expulsions.” Tunisian authorities refuted the allegations two days later, citing inaccuracies and falsehoods.
Since early July, “at least 27 migrants” have died in this desert and “73 are reported missing,” according to the same source.
Libya, which has over 600,000 migrants on its soil, has been criticized in several UN reports for serious violence against migrants.