Middle East roundup: Tunisia expels terrified Africans to borders

Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO bid; Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp try to cope after an Israeli attack – here’s the Middle East this week.

African migrants board a train on July 5, 2023, as they flee to Tunis amid unrest in Sfax following the stabbing on July 3 of a Tunisian man in an altercation with migrants
African migrants board a train as they flee to Tunis amid unrest in Sfax following the stabbing on July 3 of a Tunisian man in an altercation with migrants [Houssem Zouari/AFP]

Hundreds of Black African refugees and migrants left along Tunisia’s desolate borders are missing, dead or suffering. Turkey says it will approve Sweden’s NATO bid. And Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp are trying to get back to normal after Israel’s offensive. Here’s the Middle East this week:

Tunisia expels Black refugees

They were so thirsty, they drank seawater. Left without water, food or protection from the sun, the expulsion of Black African refugees and migrants from the city of Sfax to desolate areas on Tunisia’s borders was the culmination of what many say were months of racist abuse.

Hundreds were rounded up, driven for more than three hours and left at Ben Guerdane, a militarised Tunisia-Libya border zone. Others were expelled to the Algerian border.

Some were taken back from Libya’s border to towns in southern Tunisia, under heavy guard, but many are still trapped in the harsh desert, reeling from reportedly being beaten and abused by Tunisian police. Meanwhile, contact has been lost with the group left near Algeria and the bodies of two men have been recovered from where they were last seen.

Rights groups have decried the expulsions as illegal, urging Tunisia to halt them and allow them to receive humanitarian aid. Tunisia’s President Kais Saied denied the refugees are being treated poorly, insisting that they are receiving humane treatment.

Thousands of refugees and migrants come to Sfax hoping to get on a boat to Europe, which puts Tunisia under pressure from the European Union to stop them. The bloc is trying to woo Tunis with a billion-euro ($1.1bn) aid package but Saied has said Tunisia will not be Europe’s border guard and the deal has yet to be struck.

Jets for joining: Turkey approves Sweden’s NATO bid

A Quran-burning incident in Sweden in late June angered Turkish officials, who hold the key to the Nordic country’s entry into NATO. But along came a US-Turkey defence deal that may have finally secured Sweden’s long-awaited NATO bid.

Hours after Ankara said it would allow Stockholm into the bloc, the US said it would move forward with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, the likely trade-off for Ankara’s green light.

Before the surprise announcement, Erdogan had upped the stakes by demanding that the EU revive Turkey’s membership bid as a condition for Sweden to join NATO.

The raid is over, the trauma is not

In the midst of rubble and ruin stood some clowns, residents of the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, to entertain children after Israel’s assault as Palestinians there are slowly going back to normal, rebuilding what they can.

While the raid is over, Palestinians are left to cope with the trauma. Fatima Salahat was a vibrant mother of four – she now lies in a hospital bed, barely able to talk or walk after a panic attack linked to the stress caused by Israel’s devastating assault.

The deadly offensive that left 12 Palestinians dead and some 100 wounded has drawn criticism, with a European envoy denouncing Israel over the “proportionality” of the force it used, and the UN chief refusing to retract his condemnation.

Feel-good news of the week

Jordan prides itself on a whopping 19 different types of honey, including citrus, eucalyptus and maple, depending on which plants the bees pollinate.

While its tourism industry took a hit during COVID, Jordanian beekeepers filled the soaring demand for honey, which helps soothe symptoms of respiratory disease, during the pandemic.


Quote of the week

“They broke the feet of two young immigrants, and they broke the mouth of a woman … [They] tore out all her teeth with an iron bar. They hit the woman in the mouth.” | – Voicemails from trapped African refugees in Tunisia sent to Human Rights Watch.

Source: Al Jazeera