Civil society asks Tunisia to release immigration detainees amid COVID-19 pandemic

Civil activists reported the number of migrant despite the spread of covid19 in Tunsia

(C)INFOMIGRANTS

Several Tunisian organizations, along with Amnesty International, denounced on Friday the detention of several dozen migrants in the Center of El Ouardia (Al Wardia), in Tunisia, officially known as a hosting and orientation center. The organizations, including Lawyers without borders (Afs) and the Tunisian forum for economic and social rights (Ftdes), expressed in a joint statement their concerns for the recent migrants’ protests during the novel coronavirus pandemic, asking Tunisian authorities to explain why and in base of which law they are detaining the migrants. According to the public statement, an official communication was sent to the Tunisian government and the Magistrates Superior Council of Tunis, on April 28.

Civil activists reported the number of migrant’s detainee in the center differs with daily releases and new arrests being constantly reported despite the health risks associated with the spread of COVID-19. All the detainees are foreign nationals and we don’t know on which legal grounds they are being detained. Some of the migrants were arrested in El Ouardia because they don’t have a visa or a work permit, while others were detained for different charges – the organizations indicated, adding that – they feared foreign nationals were being systematically detained in an arbitrary way, contrary to the Tunisian Constitution and international conventions on Human Rights.

“As part of their overall plan to combat COVID-19, the Tunisian authorities should be seeking to reduce the population of its detention centers and as an immediate step, release the Ouardia immigration detainees and ensure they can access lifesaving healthcare. Detention solely for immigration purposes should only be allowed in the most exceptional of circumstances and simply cannot be justified in the middle of a global pandemic such as Covid-19,” stressed Amna Guellali, Deputy Director for North Africa at Amnesty International.

The Tunisian authorities must urgently release immigration detainees held in appalling conditions in the Ouardia Reception and Orientation Center in Tunis and ensure they have access to essential services, including adequate accommodation and healthcare, Amnesty International stated on Thursday.

“As part of their overall plan to combat COVID-19, the Tunisian authorities should be seeking to reduce the population of its detention centers and as an immediate step, release the Ouardia immigration detainees and ensure they can access lifesaving healthcare. Detention solely for immigration purposes should only be allowed in the most exceptional of circumstances and simply cannot be justified in the middle of a global pandemic such as Covid-19,” stressed Amna Guellali, Deputy Director for North Africa at Amnesty International.

The organization interviewed six of those currently imprisoned in the Ouardia Center, which is run by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior as a place of detention for foreign migrants and African workers. The center is currently hosting dozens of people, including six women and at least one child. Many of them were not aware of the legal basis for their detention while some others had been charged with offences, released from prison and held in the Center awaiting deportation. The group includes nationals from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroun and Morocco many appear to be migrants, as well as at least one person who had lodged an asylum claim.

Civil society urged Tunisian authorities to solve this situation urgently in the midst of the coronavirus emergency as social distancing measures cannot be easily observed in these detention centers. Such a risk could worsen with the arrival of new detainees so it is necessary to clarify as soon as possible the juridical status of this center and of the people who have been deprived of their freedom as well.

WR News Writer

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