LIbyan border guards have rescued at least 80 migrants stranded in the desert border region with Tunisia. The men, women and children from sub-Saharan Africa said they were abandoned in the desert by the Tunisian authorities and left without food and water, journalists from the AFP news agency reported on Sunday.
AFP journalists saw the refugees wandering in an uninhabited area near the Al Assah border town in Libyan territory. Accordingly, they were visibly exhausted, lying thirsty in the sand and looking for protection under sparse bushes at temperatures of over 40 degrees. Libyan border guards gave them water and first took the women and several children, including babies, to a shelter. There they were taken care of.
“They will be deported from Tunisia to Libya”
In a video posted to Facebook by Libyan border officials, an officer, while pointing to the Tunisian border just a few hundred meters away, asks: “See them? This is pathetic! They will be deported from Tunisia to Libya.” The border guard footage also shows a man saying that the Tunisian police “deported us to Libya”. He wants to return to Tunisia, where his family is still staying, he adds.
In the past few days, the Tunisian Red Crescent rescued more than 600 migrants who had been forced into the desert after being dumped near the town of Ras Jedir, 40 kilometers north of Al Assah, in early July. According to Tunisian activists, up to 150 people were still in the desert areas near the border on Friday.
After clashes with residents of the port city of Sfax, hundreds of African migrants have fled into the desert in recent days or been forcibly driven there. According to human rights organizations, they were herded there by Tunisian police and abandoned to their fate in inhospitable regions near Libya to the east and Algeria to the west.
Rise in racially motivated attacks
Sfax is one of the ports of departure for refugees from African countries, who set off from there in boats to Europe. The second largest city in Tunisia is around 130 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
In Tunisia, racially motivated attacks against people from sub-Saharan Africa have recently increased after President Kais Saied accused “hordes” of illegal migrants of a “criminal conspiracy” in February.