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Tunisian Authorities killed my children because they were blacks!

I speak directly to the European Union: we, the blacks - not only the people from Sierra Leone, but all the blacks - we are in a very difficult situation. We have no freedom of speech or movement. Only women and children can move freely, facing less risks of being caught and deported by the police. Since we are outcasts, I beg the international bodies to come and see our strains and constraints and acknowledge what is happening here. If they would come here, they would see how we are forced to live. We are humans! So I call international bodies to advise the Tunisia authorities on how to respect us. When you see people in the water you have to take care of them, and not treat them as if they were fish or animals. They have to respect life, respect us! Instead, they are killing our people or bringing our brothers and sisters into the desert. This must stop. This is my last message. Thank you.” 

(One of the survivors of the shipwreck on 05/04/2024, Sfax)

Here is the testimony of some survivors of a shipwreck and mass murder caused by the Tunisian National Guard on April 5, 2024, the authority financed by Italy and Europe to control Europe's maritime borders.

We departed in the evening from the coast of El Amra. We boarded a 8-meter-long iron boat.

There were 42 people in total, including 14 women and 7 children. We were from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Gambia. Two women were from Guinea and they were pregnant. The rest of the women were from Sierra Leone. All the kids were from Sierra Leone. 

When we were at the port, a car of the Tunisian National Guard (TNG) arrived and began firing tear gas at us. We managed to board the boat and leave.. 

After around half an hour, when we were not more than one kilometer from the coast, a TGN fast-boat reached us. It was a small black rubber boat. It began cutting us off and producing large waves to stop us. All the women began screaming, begging them to leave us alone, that there were children. 

Then, a second TNG  black fast-boat arrived and it started to produce large waves, making it embarking a lot of water. Anyway, it didn’t come near our boat, keeping at distance.

[The survivors recognized this type of boat, with no mention of the identification number]

The first boat approached several times to allow the TNG officials to hit our engines with a metal bar in order to break them. It happened around five times. The women and children kept screaming and crying. We were able to push the TNG boat away a couple of times, until they hit our boat in the stern, destroying the hull. We began taking on water and it started sinking. The TNG boat moved away from us, more than 5 meters. The personnel told us to swim towards them to be saved, even though they were at a considerable distance. 

The boat sank completely. We all ended up in the water, struggling to stay afloat. We remain in this situation for around 15/20 minutes and many people drown, since we didn’t have any floating device. Only those who managed to swim to them were rescued. The others were abandoned at sea. 

I helped another woman to get out of our sinking boat, and I swam with the only child who survived to the TNG boat. They pulled as onboard, with few others that managed to reach them. Then, they asked for renforcement before leaving. 

After a while, two other boats from the TNG came and started to rescue the rest of us who had survived and the bodies. We hear the crew of the second ship reproaching that of the first two rubber boats for not rescuing us, causing many people to drown.

[The survivors recognized this type of boat, with no mention of the identification number]

We were transported into a third small boat that brought us to a last big ship, which transported us to the port of Sfax.

[The survivors recognized this type of boat, with no mention of the identification number]

Around midnight, we disembarked in the port of Sfax. They didn’t give us any food, water, or new clothes and left us sitting with our wet clothes in the cold until the morning. 

Once in the port, we asked to have a look at the bodies of our people who died, but they didn’t allow us. They put all the bodies in a van and they left. That night, 16 people lost their lives, among which 9 women and 6 children. They have rescued only 14 out of the 16 bodies.  

During the night, other convoys of people were pushed back to the port of Sfax. We were the first one to be caught, but several other boats have been stopped and brought back to port. In the morning we were approximately 300 people. [Post published in a FB group. A Survivor recognises a person in the video.]

The day after, around midday, the TNG started to board us in vans and deport us into the desert. Now almost all our brothers and sisters are in the desert of Libya. 

The day after, around noon, the GNT began loading us onto vans and deporting us to the desert. We were beaten, even pregnant women, and women were harassed, touched in their intimate parts. After 12 hours of travel, still without food or water, we were abandoned at the border at night. My brother saw a pregnant woman die in front of his eyes, and she wasn’t the only one. The next morning, the Libyans arrived and captured those who were still alive. We were taken to a prison in the desert. Many of us are still locked up there, except for those who managed to pay the ransom of 1000 euros that was demanded to be released. Many members of our family have lost their lives: children, husbands, wives, sisters. And we can’t even give them a proper burial. If we were in our country, we would, but here in Tunisia there is no democracy. If we were to go look for their bodies, we would risk our own lives. For our safety, we have to abandon them. If we could rely on the support of international organizations in searching for the remains of our loved ones, we would do so without hesitation. But here, for us Black people, there is no safety or rights.

Tunisia has once again become a pivotal country in Mediterranean mobility. Initially a departure point, especially in the years following the Jasmine Revolution, it has now also evolved into a transit hub for those unable to find alternative routes to Europe. Over the past three years, numerous individuals from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, and other sub-Saharan countries have been making their way to Tunisia to escape the deadlock of Libya. Libya's established pattern of pushbacks and confinement offers little hope for those attempting to cross the maritime border. Consequently, this new arrivals has fueled local tensions, exacerbated by President Kais Saied's xenophobic and racist policies. His anti-migrant rhetoric on February 21, 2023, not only validated but also encouraged a surge of racist violence against the entire sub-Saharan population residing in the country. This has expedited the expulsion of individuals from urban areas and formal labor markets, confining them to informal camps on the outskirts, particularly in the city of Sfax.In response to this fraught social climate, both Europe and Italy have invested significant diplomatic efforts to persuade the Tunisian government to establish a stable alliance, particularly concerning migration and the control of Europe's external borders. This objective is evidenced by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Europe and Tunisia on July 16, 2023. Among its provisions is support for the militarization of the Tunisian maritime border, which entails bolstering naval assets, enhancing technical surveillance infrastructure, and providing training for border authorities.During her tenure, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has visited Tunisia on four occasions as part of the Piano Mattei, aimed at forging bilateral cooperation agreements with African countries and the broader Mediterranean region. During her most recent visit on April 17, 2023, agreements were reached on energy efficiency, business support, education, and higher education. Meloni also emphasized the importance of Italy and Tunisia's joint efforts against human trafficking.  Instead of addressing the political complexity of this phenomenon and seeking sustainable solutions, such as opening safe and unconditioned access channels unrelated to vulnerability or access to the labor market, it is preferred to scapegoat a simple target and thus reinforce the militarization of borders and reception.This perspective is further echoed by the approval of the New Pact on Immigration and Asylum by the European Parliament on April 10, 2023, which speeds up the selection processes at the border of people on the move legitimizes migration management in extraterritorial areas, opening door to the implementation of illegitimate practices, including pushbacks, deportations, and arbitrary detentions, by European border authorities or allied third countries.These policies have tangible and detrimental effects on the lives of thousands of individuals. Across Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Egypt, people are daily subjected to pushbacks, deportations, disappearances, or even fatalities at the hands of border authorities and criminal networks. The 6 children, 9 women, and the one men who lost their lives on the night between April 5th and 6th are among them. Lives unjustly cut short by the racial and violent regime of European borders. 

To not forget them!


Refugees in Libya

Mem.Med - Memorie Mediterranee

J&L Project



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