EU/Tunisia: Agreement on migration ‘makes EU complicit’ in abuses against asylum seekers, refugees and migrants

Responding to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding under which, among other things, the EU has agreed to give Tunisia financial and technical support to deter Europe-bound migration, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Director at the organization’s European Institutions Office, Eve Geddie said: 

“This ill-judged agreement, signed despite mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses by authorities, will result in a dangerous expansion of already failed migration policies and signals EU acceptance of increasingly repressive behaviour by Tunisia’s president and government.

“Coming against a backdrop of escalating violence and abuses against sub-Saharan African migrants by Tunisian authorities, the decision shows no lessons have been learned from previous similar agreements. This makes the European Union complicit in the suffering that will inevitably result. 

“At the same time as Tunisia and the EU were preparing to sign this agreement, Tunisian authorities left hundreds of people including children stranded at Tunisia’s desert borders, initially without water, food or shelter.

“By focusing their policies and funding on containment and on outsourcing of border control rather than ensuring safe and legal routes for those trying to cross borders safely, EU leaders are once again embarking on failed policies that are based on callous disregard for basic human rights standards.” 


The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi and Tunisia’s Secretary of State of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, Mounir Ben Rjiba, following a meeting in Tunisia between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday. The MoU, which provides financial support to Tunisia, aims to prevent people from reaching Europe, increase returns of Tunisians without permission to remain in Europe, and facilitate returns from Tunisia to third countries of people of other nationalities. 

The agreement was negotiated without input from civil society and lacks crucial safeguards on human rights. The press conference held by Tunisian and EU leaders following the agreement did not include journalists.  

Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, has concentrated near-total power to rule since suspending the country’s former parliament in 2021. Authorities have investigated and, in some cases, arrested at least 72 opposition figures and other perceived critics of the president accused of various offenses.