Press release of the Tunisian Forum for economic and social rights (FTDES)

Tunis, 28/02/2013

about thirty refugees of Eritrean nationality, including six women and a child denied access to the resettlement programme, meet with officials in Zarsis, Tunisa

No space for asylum in Tunisia?
During the evening hours of February 27th about thirty refugees of
Eritrean nationality, including six women and a child, went to the
headquarters of the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
in Zarzis in the south of Tunisia. They are part of a group of “boat
people” who arrived from Libya in September 2012. They were initially
accommodated at a youth centre in Zarzis and entered an integration
programme organised by the red crescent in Tunisia. Despite the fact
that they were recognised as refugees by the UNHCR, they were denied
access to the resettlement programme. It allows people to move to a
country with a functioning asylum system and adequate safety. They were
told that the resettlement programme which existed in Tunisia was
terminated and not accessible to anybody who arrived after December 2011.
The refugees demand access to the resettlement programme, in order to be
protected by a country with a functioning asylum system. Effectively the
refugee status they were awarded by the UNHCR does not grant them any
rights as Tunisia does not currently have laws concerning asylum
procedures. What’s more is that the refugees denounce the fact that the
local integration programme does not allow them to live under adequate
conditions. According to the refugees’ testimonies they are constantly
threatened by racist violence, which may occur during their training or
while at work. Which is why they refuse to integrate themselves in
Tunisia which to them represents a country that rejects them and by
which they feel threatened.
Facing the mobilisation of these refugees, the Tunisian Forum for
Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) attests that the UNHCR’s efforts to
integrate refugees in Tunisia have failed. The FTDES considers the
“integration” policy an attempt by the European Union to externalise
asylum procedures for refugees who Western governments could not find
any solutions for to Tunisia . The FTDES also condems the fact that
these integration programmes were initiated whithout offering a legal
status to the people affected by it in Tunisia, thus leaving them
disenfranchised. The FTDES appeals to the UNHCR and the respective
governments to assume their responsibilities in order to protect these
political refugess who depend on international protection. The FTDES
reiterates their request to the UNHCR concerning all refugees: to allow
them access to the resettlement programme so they can leave Tunisia and
obtain effective protection by countries that do have an aslum system.
Ultimately the FTDES appeals to the entire Tunisian civil society to
take a stand in favour of the refugees demands and to show their
solidarity.
Abederhmane Hedhili
president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights

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