Border guards in Libya say that about 150 refugees and migrants leave Tunisia every day and enter Libya.
Authorities in Libya say that at least 27 people from sub-Saharan Africa have died in the last few days after being sent away from Tunisia toward the border with Libya and left in the desert in the hot sun.
From the Libyan city of Misrata, Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina reported on Wednesday that Libyan border guards discovered the bodies “in the desert in a significant area south of the northern crossing.”
“It’s very hot, with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit),” Traina said. He also said that refugees and migrants said they had been forced to walk for days without water, food, or shelter.
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Libyan border guards and rights organizations accuse Tunisia of sending refugees and migrants across the border into a desolate area far from towns and villages in the middle of the summer as part of a crackdown that Human Rights Watch called “collective expulsions.”
After days of unrest in the port city of Sfax, where one Tunisian was killed, Tunisia started sending Black African migrants and asylum seekers back home in July.
The locals have complained about how the refugees act, and the refugees have said that they have been attacked because of their race.
According to Libyan border guards, an average of 150 people leave Tunisia and enter Libya every day.
Tafaul Omar said that she and her husband were taken to the border area and left there without much water while she was pregnant.
“My husband works in a factory. “In Tunisia, he was hit and called names,” Omar told Al Jazeera. “We were taken to the border two days later. They beat the men and then left us.”
She walked for hours in the hot sun before the Libyan government found her.
Al Jazeera could not check her story on its own.
A Libyan border guard named Ali Wali told Al Jazeera that it was often hard to find people. He said, “It’s a big desert, and groups of people are walking in all directions.”
The Ministry of the Interior of Tunisia says that refugees and migrants are not being dumped in the desert. President Kais Saied has said that the stories are lies meant to make the country look bad.
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“Tunisia denies all claims that it kicked out African immigrants,” a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told the news agency Reuters this week.
When asked how the people who were stuck in the desert got there, he said, “People who meet the conditions for legal entry into Tunisia will be allowed in,” adding, “Tunisia is not responsible for what happens outside its borders.”
Last month, the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said they were very worried about the safety of hundreds of migrants and refugees in Tunisia who had been moved to “remote and desolate” border areas or pushed across the border.
This year, thousands of refugees who were living in Tunisia tried to leave for Europe after Saied said in February that he was going to crack down on them. He said that their presence was part of a plan to change Tunisia’s population.