European Leaders Urged to Reverse Course on Tunisia Migration Deal

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – As European and EU leaders shook hands with Tunisian President Kais Saied, a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in the country’s desert border areas. Hundreds of refugees and migrants found themselves stranded without access to essentials such as food, water, and shelter after being rounded up and abandoned by Tunisian security forces. The European People’s Party President later referred to reports of multiple deaths near the border, including alarming videos from the desert.

The leaders were in Tunisia to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at curbing migration to Europe, offering Tunisia financial support amid its economic crisis in exchange for border management. However, the human costs of the deal are already apparent, with growing repression of human rights in the country.

Despite reaching the agreement, Tunisian authorities continued to force migrants to the Libyan border, where many were left in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Shockingly, EU leaders have not publicly condemned these violations, and there were no human rights conditions, assessments, or monitoring of the deal’s impact in place.

The EU’s agreement with Tunisia also risks legitimizing Saied’s assault on the rule of law and his repression of dissent. European leaders grew silent as the Tunisian president dismantled institutional checks on executive power, restricted free speech, and granted himself powers over the judiciary.

The lack of transparency in the negotiations reduces the legitimacy of EU migration policies. In light of these concerns, there is a call to suspend the MoU and promote an independent judiciary, free media, and a vibrant civil society in Tunisia.

Ultimately, the externalization approach to migration is considered immoral, dangerous, and potentially unlawful. Reversing course and learning from past agreements that have led to immense suffering is still possible for EU leaders.