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UN experts urge Tunisia to act swiftly to uphold migrants’ rights

18 July 2023

GENEVA (18 July 2023) – UN experts* today raised concern about Tunisia’s allegedly discriminatory treatment of sub-Saharan migrants, and urged the authorities to take urgent measures to stop collective expulsions and protect the human rights of all migrants.

“Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law,” the UN experts said. “Deporting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers without conducting an individual and objective risk assessment of their exposure to human rights violations upon return amounts to refoulement, prohibited under international human rights law.”

The experts contacted the Tunisian Government in March, expressing concern at reports of racist treatment of sub-Saharan migrants and collective expulsions targeting sub-Saharan migrants, as well as of violence and racist hate speech, including perpetrated by the country's top leadership and law enforcement officials.

“We call on the authorities to immediately halt any further deportations and to continue and expand humanitarian access to a dangerous area on the Tunisian-Libyan border where many, including pregnant women and children, have already been deported,” they said.

The principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in international human rights law, applies to all forms of expulsion, regardless of nationality or migration status, the UN experts said. They stressed that the targeting of migrants and asylum seekers on the basis of their skin colour also violates the prohibition of racial discrimination under international law.

“We are also deeply concerned about reports of racist hate speech in the country, and reports of violence against migrants in Sfax, including perpetrated by law enforcement officials” the experts said. “Racial hate speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination has real consequences, including violence.”

The UN experts called on the Tunisian Government to take immediate steps to end racist hate speech in the country, protect sub-Saharan migrants from violence, investigate reported acts of violence and ensure access to justice and remedies for victims, as also recommended by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its statement of 31 March 2023.

The experts are in contact with the authorities regarding these issues.


*The experts:  Ashwini, K.P. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism; Barbara G. Reynolds (Chair), Bina D’Costa, Catherine Namakula, Dominique Day, Miriam Ekiudoko Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent | OHCHR; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which, to date has 182 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For additional information and media requests please contact Eleanor Robb ([email protected]).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

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