Tunisia: migrants camp in front of IOM, call for evacuation to 'safer state'

Tunisia: migrants camp in front of IOM, call for evacuation to 'safer state'
3 min read
30 March, 2023
They have sought refuge in front of the IOM's building since 21 Feb, the same day the Tunisian President spoke of an alleged plot about how 'hordes of migrants' aim to change the society's makeup and erase Tunisia's 'Arab and Islamic' identity.
The camp is home to over one hundred migrants mainly from Sudan. The whole group shares a single shower and toilet located in a nearby park. [Getty]

In Tunis, over 100 migrants are camping in front of the UN's International migrants organisation (IOM) building seeking 'immediate' evacuation to safer states amid the surging racism wave in the North African country.

Today marks their 37th day in front of the IOM building in the capital.

They have sought refuge in the ally of IOM's building since 21 February; the same day Tunisian President Kais Saied spoke of an alleged plot on how 'the hordes of migrants' aim to change the society’s makeup and erase 'the Arab and Islamic' identity of Tunisia.

Since 12 March, the camp's residents have launched a series of daily protests in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a few meters away from their camp.

Protesters warn of the increasing danger to their lives after President Saied greenlighted a crackdown against "illegal migrants" in the country.

On Wednesday, a video shared on social media showed police members storming the camp-sit-in to disperse the protesting crowd.

Many migrants have joined the camp to flee the intense arrests campaign that authorities launched post-Saied speech. 

"Authorities started storming migrants’ houses and arresting those who do not have regulated papers," Omar, a Sudanese migrant whose name was changed for safety reasons, told The New Arab.

Omar said he was kicked out of his rental after authorities came looking for him and his flatmates, who all have been waiting for a response to their asylum seeker status demand for months.

The UNHCR in Tunisia, in partnership with the Tunisian Red Crescent, is the only body authorised to grant the status of an asylum seeker. Though, demands can take months before being answered.

"I managed to escape before they (police) entered the house, and I came here," Omar told the TNA.

The IOM's building extends along an alley, which has become crowded with plastic sheets, tents, and hanging clothes.

The camp is home to over one hundred migrants, mainly from Sudan and Nigeria. The whole group shares a single shower and toilet in a nearby park.

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The IOM released on 8 March their only comment on the camp in front of its building, affirming that "there are currently over 100 migrants outside IOM's office in the capital, Tunis, seeking various types of assistance."

"We are working as fast as possible to offer support while appealing for calm and dialogue to ensure dignified and human rights-based solutions," added the IOM's press release.

However, Omar said local activists and volunteers from near neighbourhoods had been their only providers of medical and food supplements for the past few weeks.

Amid the ongoing protests, the IOM and the UNHCR have yet to offer an update on the escalating situation.