what is the situation in lebanon and tunisia

The circumstances of the shipwreck of the ship that sank off the coast of Tripoli on Saturday, April 23, are still quite unclear, but this new tragedy, with at least ten dead, according to a preliminary report, is causing renewed tensions in Lebanon as the people of this country of the Middle East are currently being driven into exile due to the collapse of the economy. Tunisia also has many shipwrecks, although authorities say 100 people were rescued last week.

In Lebanon, emotion and anger after the sinking of a migrant boat

At least 84 people were on board the boat that sank on Saturday, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, killing at least 10 people. Unfortunately, this preliminary assessment threatens to become even more dramatic, as if 48 passengers were rescued and eight bodies were recovered, about thirty are still missing.

The circumstances of the sinking are still unclear. The boat sank off the coast of Tripoli, the large city in northern Lebanon, near the border with Syria. It is an extremely poor city. And it is a region where migrants regularly leave, or attempted to leave because the Lebanese navy is deployed to prevent them. According to the Lebanese army, this boat, which carried almost 80 people, was built in 1974, which is almost 50 years old! It was 10 meters long and three wide. So overloaded. It sank after hitting a military launch that chased it. An investigation has been launched to shed light on this tragedy.

This is far from the first departure of migrants from the Lebanese coast, but this shipwreck sparked outrage in the country. In recent years, migrants trying to cross into Cyprus, just 170 kilometers from the Lebanese coast, have been Syrian or Palestinian refugees. But on the boat that sank Saturday night, most of the candidates for the trip were Lebanese. Lebanese in exile driven by the economic and financial collapse of the country, by the indolence of the clientelist and corrupt political class. After two and a half years of crisis, three quarters of Lebanese have fallen below the poverty line.

This drama sparked anger with scenes of riots, cut roads and even shootings in the poorest areas of Tripoli. In Beirut, a demonstration took place outside the Prime Minister’s house, himself from Tripoli and one of the richest men in the world. Elsewhere in Lebanon, convoys or rallies have been organized to denounce the responsibility of political leaders. Finally, in Beirut, a minister was held accountable and pushed at the exit of a bar, accused of drunkenness as Lebanese died fleeing a country in ruins.

15 days before the parliamentary elections, authorities have been in turmoil all week to ease tensions by scheduling an extraordinary government meeting. The military staff has been called up. Authorities have also promised a conflicting investigation and the release of funds for the families of the victims.

In Tunisia, the migration issue is still topical

Authorities said they rescued 97 people in four shipwrecks that occurred last week. Seventeen perished. Most migrants are of sub-Saharan origin. NGOs such as the Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) have noted: a resurgence of sub-Saharan exile candidates in rescues at sea and failed migration attempts. This can be explained by several factors. First, Tunisia is rarely a welcome country for these Sub-Saharans who often come to work in the country for two or three years to pay for a crossing to Europe. Secondly, these workers, mainly day laborers and without a social safety net, have seen their situation deteriorate due to the pandemic and after the peak of the Covid period, they do not even think about their future in Tunisia, even temporarily.

Issues of racism and abuse remain. Tunisia passed a law in 2018 defining racism and fighting racial discrimination, but many of these migrants are afraid to file a complaint because they don’t have their paperwork in order, much less have the means to hire a lawyer. Pay. But all report racist behavior and comments at work or on the street. Since the country has no asylum law or law further regulating the status of foreign workers, most migrants generally find it very difficult to integrate and therefore feel partially excluded from society.

For 10 days, refugees have been organizing a sit-in in front of the UNHCR (High Commissioner for Refugees) headquarters in Tunis. These are usually survivors at sea or migrants arriving from Libya. dOf Sudanese, Chadian or Nigerian descent, they applied for asylum from the UNHCR and some were granted refugee status. But due to UNHCR’s financial constraints, they are being asked to vacate the accommodation for vulnerable people. Since then, these refugees have been at an impasse. They have nowhere to go, do not want or cannot work under the conditions offered to them and ask to be evacuated to another country. The UNHCR says it cannot conduct this kind of humanitarian evacuation, which only happens in a country of extreme tension, nor can it easily resettle these migrants in another country. This phenomenon is likely to increase with the improvement of the weather and the resumption of departure at sea.

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