migrants in the tunisia libya desert on the brink of death
Officers attempt to gently revive him by placing a few drops of water on his lips while he is barely breathing.
According to Libyan border guards and the man himself, he is just one of the hundreds of migrants who arrive in Libya every day after being abandoned in the border region’s desert by Tunisian security forces.
The migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are close to passing out from exhaustion by the time they arrive in Libya, where the temperature has surpassed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Around 100 men and women were rescued by border guards from an uninhabited area close to Sebkhat al-Magta, a salt lake along the Libya-Tunisia border, as seen by AFP on Sunday.
Six figures appear, the most recent to arrive in the region, in the far-off shimmering heat haze. They claim to be from Tunisia and speak Arabic.
Libyan border guards who spoke to AFP, the migrants stated that Tunisian authorities had abandoned them in the border region close to Al-Assah, which is situated about 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Tripoli.
Following the death of a Tunisian man in a clash between locals and migrants at the beginning of July, racial tensions caused hundreds of migrants from sub-Saharan African nations to flee the port city of Sfax in Tunisia.
Sudanese national Haitham Yahiya claimed to have spent a year working in Tunisia’s construction industry after sneaking into the nation via Niger and Algeria.
I was arrested at work and brought here in a police car and a security truck. In Al-Assah, he said, They left and told me to go to Libya.
The closest point between Lampedusa, an Italian island, and Tunisia is 130 kilometers, near Sfax.
Tunisia is a major entry point for migrants and asylum seekers who attempt perilous sea voyages in search of a better life in Europe. The leaders of that continent have offered financial assistance to Tunisia to help it manage the flow.
According to Human Rights Watch, up to 1,200 black Africans were “expelled, or forcibly transferred by Tunisian security forces” to the country’s desert border regions with Libya and Algeria in July.
The Tunisian Red Crescent reported in mid-July that it had given shelter to at least 630 migrants who had been transported to Ras Jedir, about 40 kilometers north of Al-Assah, after July 3.
However, AFP later collected testimonies from hundreds of migrants who were still stranded in the Ras Jedir buffer zone. They claimed that Tunisian security forces had compelled them to go there.
350 people were still residing in a temporary camp in Ras Jedir, including 12 expectant mothers and 65 children.
According to a humanitarian official, “their living conditions are very problematic,” adding that “it is not sustainable in the long run, there are no toilets, no water tanks, and no real shelters.”
Dazed migrants continue to stutter into Al-Assah, some wearing nothing but sandals on their feet.
They arrive in groups of two, three, or even dozens. Some give way. The guards cover their parched mouths with water bottles.
Libyan border guards from Battalion 19 and a Saharan immigration unit patrol daily to deal with the influx.
“We are on the border between Libya and Tunisia, and every day there are more and more people coming,” said Ali Wali, a spokesman for Battalion 19.
To silence those (in Tunisia) who assert that we fabricated everything and brought the migrants here, he claimed that AFP had been given permission to accompany the units.
They patrol a 15-kilometer radius around Al-Assah. According to Wali, they could encounter “150, 200, 350, and occasionally as many as 400 or 500 irregular migrants” depending on the day.
There are 110 on this particular day, with two women. Two more are supposed to be present. A soldier uses his binoculars to look for them.
17 dead at least
The “unfolding tragedy” of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Tunisia’s border regions was mentioned in a joint statement from UN agencies on Thursday.
Without access to a place to stay, food, or water, they are stranded in the desert in sweltering heat. While urgent, humane solutions are discovered, there is an urgent need to provide critical, life-saving humanitarian assistance, they declared.
Additionally, the UN has singled out Libya in previous reports, condemning violence against the 600,000 migrants it holds, the majority of whom are in camps.
In recent days, the Tripoli government has made it clear that it opposes the “resettlement” of migrants arriving from Tunisia on its soil.
In the meantime, the migrants unknowingly crossed the border. They claim to be moving in the direction of Libya as instructed by the Tunisian security forces.
Some people, like Alexander Unche Okole, claimed they had walked for two days without food or water as a heatwave choked the Mediterranean.
Okole, a 41-year-old Nigerian, claimed to have entered Tunisia through Debdeb in Algeria and to have spent some time in Tunis before being apprehended by Tunisian police. I was taken down to the Sahara desert after being arrested on the street. He displayed a cell phone with a broken screen, claiming that the Tunisians were responsible. By the Grace of God, the Libyans saved me and gave me food and water, according to Okole.
Others have not, but he has.
Officers discovered two bodies on Saturday, according to Wali, a few days after recovering five more, among them a woman and her infant. A week prior, they had also uncovered five corpses, he claimed.
How do you think they’re going to survive? The heat, lack of water, and a two- to three-day march?