Geneva - The partnership agreement on migration between the European Union and Tunisia will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis of migrants and asylum seekers in Tunisia and encourage discrimination against them, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in a statement.

Euro-Med Monitor expressed grave concern that the EU continues to pursue inhumane policies seeking to limit the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers on its territories, with no regard for the potential humanitarian consequences. While the EU’s ongoing externalisation of border management may succeed in temporarily reducing the number of arrivals, it will undoubtedly fail to address the root causes of continued migrant flow to Europe or provide a sustainable or dignified solution to the problem.

The EU announced the ratification of a strategic partnership agreement with Tunisia in five areas on 16 July. The areas are migration, combating human smuggling, assisting border control efforts, improving registration and return procedures, and funding; the EU allocated a package of one billion euros to the country, of which 105 million euros will be used to combat irregular migration.

   The EU is only interested in reducing the number of arrivals by any means necessary, which may sometimes result in the deaths of asylum seekers during violent pushbacks   

Anas Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operating Officer

The details of the agreement were released by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and the European Commission, and did not include any conditions or guarantees to protect migrants and asylum seekers from violence during pushbacks or detention in security centres and deportation facilities. The agreement’s ratification coincides with an increase in serious violations against migrants and asylum seekers in Tunisia, as well as continued public incitement against their presence in the country by Tunisian President Kais Saied, and the consequent illegal forced deportation of hundreds of them.

“After abandoning migrants in the desert without food or water, the EU has rewarded Tunisia by providing more funds to develop the capabilities of security services responsible for violating the rights of migrants and asylum seekers,” said Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operating Officer Anas Jerjawi. He pointed to previous agreements, such as the one with Libya, stating that “the EU is only interested in reducing the number of arrivals by any means necessary, which may sometimes result in the deaths of asylum seekers during violent pushbacks”.

Jerjawi added, “Instead of reviewing ties with Tunisian authorities over their anti-democratic practices and ongoing campaigns against liberties, the EU decides to pursue its interests at the expense of morals and human ethics, allying with a repressive regime that does not believe in partnership or pluralism.”

Its official partnership with Tunisia in combating migration makes the EU complicit in Tunisian authorities’ violations against vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers, said Euro-Med Monitor. The organisation’s statement cited abusive and discriminatory practices including illegal detention and physical as well as psychological torture, in addition to violent pushbacks and forced returns.

The European Commission must review its policies on irregular migration, ensure the protection of migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights in all relevant agreements, and condition technical and financial assistance to Tunisian authorities’ adherence to national and international human rights standards in dealing with migrants and asylum seekers.

Tunisian authorities must completely and permanently end all forms of violence against migrants and asylum seekers, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, including discriminatory attacks, illegal detention, expulsions, and forced returns, and must combat incitement and hate speech that feeds racist and xenophobic rhetoric.