Press release in its entirety from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network:
“Brussels, 23 March 2011. Italy and the other Member States of the EU should suspend all measures of forcible removal towards Tunisia and share in the reinstallation of Libyan and non-Libyan refugees who have to flee Libya
Italian ministers Frattini and Maroni have announced their intention to travel to Tunisia to renew bilateral cooperation on migration issues. In the view of the Euro-Mediterranean Network, in the present circumstances, the ministers’ insistence that the Tunisian authorities must prevent new departures from Tunisia and cooperate in the forcible removal of the Tunisian migrants who have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year, is particularly inappropriate.
The upheavals that are shaking the region at the moment have exposed the short-sightedness and futility of a policy that favours dictators instead of migrants.
Expecting from the Tunisian authorities, first and foremost, a crack down on immigration from third countries and emigration towards the European Union amounts to encouraging them in returning to the authoritarian practices of the former regime. This is not the kind of support Tunisia needs.
In this transition period, Italy and the other member states of the European Union should, on the contrary, suspend all measures imposing the forcible removal of Tunisian nationals towards Tunisia and share in the resettlement of Libyan and non-Libyan refugees who have had to flee Libya, arrived in Tunisia and cannot return to their home country.
While the number of Tunisian migrants who have landed on Lampedusa Island is significant relative to the size and population of the island, it is minuscule, on the European scale, when compared to the scope of the humanitarian emergency confronting Tunisia on its border with Libya. No fewer than 165,000 people have crossed the border at Ras Adjir in an attempt to flee the violence in Libya since 20 February, but no Tunisian official has made inflammatory statements comparing migrants and asylum seekers with criminals or terrorists. Tunisia is forced to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Tunisian workers, some of whom had been living in Libya for many years, as well as tens of thousands of immigrant workers, mainly from Bangladesh and sub-Saharan countries, who are awaiting repatriation to their countries of origin with assistance from UNHCR and OIM, not to mention Libyans and nationals of countries such as Somalia, Eritrea or Sudan, who for obvious reasons cannot return to their countries of origin, where their lives and physical integrity would be at risk.”
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