Open letter regarding migration cooperation with Tunisia

2 August 2023 – Letter addressed to
– Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission
– 27 Member States governments

Dear Mrs. Von der Leyen,

We are writing to you to express our indignation and deep opposition to the Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia, further expanding Fortress Europe, and to denounce the lack of formal condemnation of the racist treatment of and human rights violations against people on the move by Tunisia’s government. A situation that has been described by the UN as illegal under international law.

In a statement from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) of 18 July, UN experts condemned Tunisia’s racist treatment of Sub-Saharan migrants, emphasizing that “collective expulsions are prohibited under international law” and that “racial hate speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination has real consequences, including violence”.

While the abuses, including collective expulsions, have been going on for years, they intensified this year after racist hate speech by Tunisian president Kaïs Saïed. At the beginning of July, more than 1200 migrants were expelled from the city of Sfax. They were sent to the borders with Libya and Algeria and left there to die. While some hundreds have been rescued, groups of people still remain at the borders today in life-threatening situations.

In view of this abhorrent situation, instead of ensuring loud and clear condemnation of these actions by European States through the voice of the European Commission, you went to Tunisia to sign a strategic agreement legitimizing and strengthening the increasingly authoritarian regime of Saïed in exchange for more migrants deaths. The EU has been funding Tunisia’s human rights abuses with at least €93-178 million since 2015 and is now planning to reward the government’s increasingly murderous actions with a staggering €1 billion. All to further externalise EUrope’s borders, extending Fortress Europe’s walls and barbed wire in order to prevent people from moving. What is really shocking is to encourage a state in its full anti-democratic and racist practice to act as the umpteenth external implementer of your own violent and racist border regime. Only over the past year we have seen similar agreements on migration control between the EU and/or its member states with amongst others Morocco, Libya and Egypt.

You met president Saïed, a person symbolising the opposite of all the values the EU supposedly stands for. He is against the abolition of the death penalty, against the repeal of laws punishing homosexuality,against equality, and permanently spreading racist discourse. You have this meeting accompanied by the President of Italy Giorgia Meloni, the first post-fascist leader of a country that founded the EU! You were also joined by the resigning Prime minister Mark Rutte, who told press he isn’t concerned by Tunisia’s racist treatment of people on the move, happily smiling as you shook hands in the name of the EU. Clearly the treatment inflicted on women and children abandoned in the middle of the desert without food, water and shelter doesn’t bother you at all. You should be ashamed, but instead you congratulate each other on the great deal achieved.

A significant part of the €105 million for the anti-migration part of this agreement will go to the supply of border security equipment, such as patrol vessels, drones and radar, to Tunisia. This will only benefit the arms industry, while it increases the risks for people trying to cross to Europe, making the Mediterranean even more dangerous and lethal. This year alone, almost 2000 people on the move have died here, that we know of.

We are addressing you in the name of the human dignity that drives us to express our deep disgust at such manoeuvrers which are far from being carried out with the consent of all European citizens.

We demand
– that the EU repeals the Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia
– that the EU and its member states halt all its funding to Tunisia for migration control
– that all EU member states revoke Tunisia’s status as safe third country and do not designate it as such in future
– that the EU stops the externalisation of its borders to third countries, including but not limited to Tunisia
– that the EU instead creates safe and legal pathways for migrants to enter the Union


Abolish Frontex campaign, supported by:

A Buon Diritto Onlus
Agir Pour la Paix
Alarm Phone Oujda
Alarm Phone Sahara (APS)
Alternativa Antimilitarista.MOC
Anarchistische Anti-deportatie Groep Utrecht (AAGU)
Argos – Observatory for Migration and Human Rights
Association Marocaine des Droits Humains
Association Pateras de la vida Larache Maroc
BAAM (Le Bureau d’accueil et d’accompagnement des migrants)
Baobab Experience
BDS Italia
Benvenuti Ovunque
Campaña CIEs No
Campagna Lesvos Calling
Centre Delàs d’Estudis per la Pau
Channel Rescue
Circolo Arci Thomas Sankara
Comitato Antirazzista Durban Italia
Comune Info
Coordination des Sans-papiers de Belgique
Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie
CSOA Gabrio
Deserteurs- und Flüchtlingsberatung
Elma Maternity Center
End Deportations Belfast
Enough Kollektiv
Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice
European Civic Forum
Flüchtlingsinitiative Bremen
Flygtninge i Fare – Refugees in danger
Food Not Bombs – Padova
Forum Antirazzista Palermo
Getting the Voice Out
Groupe de Recherche et d’Actions sur les Migrations
Gruppo Melitea
Gruppo territoriale Genova Refugees Welcome Italia Onlus
Humans Before Borders
IHDD – Verein für Menschenrechte und Solidarität in der Schweiz
International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe
Internationaler Versöhnungsbund – österreichischer Zweig
JunepA – Junges Netzwerk für politische Aktionen
Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie
Le Veglie Contro Le Morti In Mare
Legal Centre Lesvos
Libellula – lib(e)ri per crescere
Linea d’Ombra
Lungo la rotta balcanica – Along the Balkan Route
Mani Rosse Antirazziste
Mare Liberum
Medibüro Berlin
Mediterranea Saving Humans
Mesa Popular Odv Association
Migr’Actions autour d’un Monde sans Frontières
Migrant Solidarity Network
Netzwerk für Humanität und Bleiberecht im Kreis Steinfurt
New Profile
No Border Assembly
No Border Kitchen
No Borders Rheinland
No Lager Osnabrück
No More Morias
No Name Kitchen
Ocalenie Foundation
One Bridge to Idomeni
Open Arms
Osservatorio Repressione – Aps
Polity of Literature
Push Back Alarm Austria
Red canaria por los derechos de las personas migrantes
Red Solidaria de Acogida Madrid
Refugee Rescue
Refugees Welcome Italia – Aosta
Refugees Welcome Italia – Bologna
Refugees Welcome Italia – Como
Refugees Welcome Italia – Firenze
Refugees Welcome Italia – Genova
Refugees Welcome Italia – Macerata
Refugees Welcome Italia – Palermo
Refugees Welcome Italia – Varese
Refugees’ Solidarity Movement in Alexandria & Cairo
Rete Antirazzista Catanese
Seebrücke Frankfurt am Main
Seebrücke Rheinland Pfalz
Seebrücke Schweiz
Seebrücke Wien
Società della cura
Solidarité sans frontières
Solidary Wheels
SOS Racismo Madrid
SOS Racismo Portugal
Stay Human Ireland
Stop Border Violence
Stop Deportations Vienna
Stop Fuelling War (Cessez d’alimenter la Guerre)
Stop the War on Migrants
Stop Wapenhandel
Transnational Institute
UMOYA – Federación de Comités de África Negra
Un Ponte Per
United 4 Eritrea
UNITED for Intercultural Action – Campaign ‘Fortress Europe No More Deaths’
Utopia 56
Vicdani Ret Derneği (Association for Conscientious Objection)
Watch The Med Alarm Phone
We’ll Come United
Wir Packens An e.V.
Ya Basta Bologna

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