Nearly 400 migrants repatriated from Tunisia: IOM

Nearly 400 migrants repatriated from Tunisia: IOM
Hundreds of African migrants have been repatriated from Tunisia to their home countries, according to the UN's migration agency.
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Large numbers of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan African states reside in Tunisia [Getty]

Nearly 400 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been repatriated from Tunisia to their home countries in recent days, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

The IOM has facilitated "the safe and dignified voluntary return" of 392 people, largely from Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali and Senegal, according to a statement from the United Nations agency.

Upon arrival in their countries, they will receive "tailored reintegration services to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into their communities," the statement said.

In 2023, the agency assisted 2,557 migrants who wanted to return from Tunisia to their country of origin, a 45 percent jump since 2022, it said.

It added that the repatriation took place in collaboration with the Tunisian government and local authorities, including those in Sfax, the epicentre of migration from Tunisia to Europe, as well as Medenine and Tataouine, two disadvantaged areas in southern Tunisia.

Tunisia intercepted nearly 70,000 people during irregular migration attempts over the first 11 months of 2023, more than double the number in 2022, according to statistics shared by the National Guard.

Of that figure, 77.5 percent were foreigners, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, and the remainder were Tunisians, compared to 59 percent foreigners in 2022.

The number of departures surged in Tunisia following a speech last February by President Kais Saied in which he denounced "hordes of illegal migrants" as a demographic threat to the country.

Migrants and refugees in Tunisia are facing "daily institutional violence", including "arbitrary" arrests, "forced displacements" and "expulsions towards the borders" with Libya and Algeria, according to a report by the World Organisation Against Torture published in mid-December.

The report said authorities have engaged in numerous human rights violations, noting that the country is under "continued pressure from Europe to reduce irregular migration in the Mediterranean".