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Migrants arbitrarily detained in the center of Tunis

22 migrants – Center El Ouardia

In September 2020, the Ministry of the Interior released 22 migrants arbitrarily detained at the Center El Ouardia. They had spent months detained without any legal basis, in a place that was not officially a detention center. In June 2020, they appealed to the administrative court to contest their arbitrary detention. An innovative appeal that was successful even though the Ministry of the Interior was slow to release them. Despite this, since then, new migrants have been detained in El Ouardia and they too have been victims of the ill-treatment inherent to the arbitrary nature of their detention.

They were detained for months in a place legally considered as a shelter and orientation center. A center from which they were not allowed to leave and which operates as an illegal detention center.

The group of 22 migrants, as well as those who preceded or succeeded them in the center, were accused by the Tunisian administration of illegal entry or stay on Tunisian territory. However, such an offence does by no means justify their detention without any legal procedure and any judicial control, especially as some of them had already been tried and imprisoned on these grounds before being detained in El Ouardia. In Tunisia, there is no law that would allow for migrants to be subjected to any form of administrative detention.

In addition, the 22 detainees were not notified in writing of the legal basis for their detention, the length of their detention, their rights to legal representation and interpretation, their right to contact their consulate, or their right to have the legality of their detention immediately reviewed by the courts. Their lawyers were not allowed to visit them or given access to their files. They remained deprived of their basic rights for months without knowing how or when these violations would end, being exposed to psychological violence coming also from poor detention conditions.

With the assistance of several human rights organizations, the 22 migrants attempted - previously untried - administrative litigation to contest the legality of their detention. In July 2020, one month after their appeal, the administrative court ordered the Ministry of the Interior to release the migrants. It finally took more than two months for all 22 migrants to be released in September 2020. To this day, they have not received compensation for the violations they suffered.

Although it has been established that all detention in El Ouardia is arbitrary, the Ministry of the Interior continues to detain migrants in that center, withour any consequences and in full impunity.