August 24-September 2, 2015, Tunisia-Algeria.
On August 24, 2015, 10 rejected refugees from Choucha camp were arrested while they were protesting outside the offices of the EU delegation in Tunis to demand to be resettled in Europe, after having fled the Libyan conflict in 2011 and after having lived in the Tunisian desert for over four years. The Tunisian National Guard apprehended them and took them to the detention center of Wardia. The Tunisian lawyer who took on their case was refused access to the prison. Despite the fact that two of them were sick, the Tunisian Red Crescent did not visit them—a group of activists eventually brought them the medication they needed.
On September 1, at 6:15 am, we received a phone call from R., one of the ten people from Choucha detained at Wardia, saying that the Tunisian National Guard forced them to board to vans and was driving them to the Algerian border. At 11 am we received a second phone call from another of the refugees, A., stating “we are now at the Algerian border, the Tunisian police abandoned us here”. At 1 pm A. called us from the Algerian border crossing point of Bou Chebka, in the Kasserine region, explaining that the Tunisian police dropped them very close to the Algerian border, not too far from the city of Feriana. He also told us that the Tunisian Antiterrorism Brigade (BAT) threatened to shoot them if they did not cross the border into Algeria. So they crossed and entered Algeria. The Algerian police didn’t arrest them but in the evening they were forced to come back to Tunisia by the Algerian police. On September 1 in the evening a reportage published by the journalist Saana Sbouai on the Tunisian website Inkyfada, (https://inkyfada.com/2015/09/expuls... ) has immediately circulates widely and already late in the evening a Tunisian broadcast spread the news about refugees deported to Algeria.
On September 2 at 10 am, A. called us again to report that they were taken back to Tunisia very early that morning by Tunisian authorities, probably after a negotiation between the Algerian and the Tunisian National Guard. They had been taken to the National Guard station of Feriana, where they were prevented from getting in touch with their lawyer. Tunisian authorities said that because of the media attention raised on the case, they could not inform anybody on the situation. We contacted UNHCR and the Tunisian Red Crescent for support but both organizations refused to help the group from Choucha in any way. On September 2 at 5;28 pm we received a phone call from A. saying that the Tunisian Gardane Nationale left them free and that they arrived by a local bus to Tunis, where we finally met them.
1 Interview Extract, September 1, 3:12 pm
A: “We are on the Algerian side of the border, at the crossing point of Bou Chebka. The closest Tunisian city from here is Feriana”
Q: “How did you cross it?”
A: “The department of foreigners and borders dropped us near the border, where there was the BAT, (Anti-Terrorism Brigade) and we said, look, they will shoot at us. So, we came to the other side. And from there we came directly to the Algerian police, to the police station, they asked us to sit there, and nobody talked to us”
Q: “Did the Tunisian police shoot at you?”
A: “The BAT said that if we had not crossed the border, they would have shot us. They told us that anyone of us who would had looked back, would have been shot”.
Q: “How many people have been deported?”
A: “We are 9 people from Choucha and plus four other people, one of them is from Cameroun, but we don’t know where they are now. We are scared because Algerian authorities want to push us back but we will be killed by the Tunisian police if we cross the Tunisian border again. This morning at 5 am in Wardia the Garde Nationale came and beat us, then pushed us beyond this border and now we are here”.
Interview Extract, September 2, 10:07 am
A.: “This morning Algerian authorities pushed us back to Tunisia, so now we are in the city of Feriana”.
Q: “So, are you now on the Tunisian side, right?”
A: “Yes, at the Garde Nationale police station, in Feriana. For the moment we are blocked here. Instead I., our friend who is very sick when we had been arrested, is still in Wardia, without any kind of medical assistance”.
Q: “Are you blocked at the Garde Nationale station?”
A: “Yes, but how is it possible that we have been pushed back again, from one border to another?”