Security forces in North Africa financed by the EU are apparently systematically abducting asylum seekers who want to go to Europe. This emerges from joint research by “Spiegel” with the non-profit investigative editorial team “Lighthouse Reports” and other media from eight countries. According to the experts, this is a system to deter migrants who are considering fleeing to Europe.

The migrants are being abandoned in remote areas, for example in the desert, which the EU states know about, the report says.

According to the research, the EU countries in Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania would equip the very units that make the asylum seekers disappear. Specifically, these would deliver buses and pickup trucks and train officers. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 31 million euros have so far flowed to Tunisia for training and equipment.

The research is based on verified videos, eyewitness accounts, satellite images, confidential documents and reports from asylum seekers. Documented conversations with diplomats, EU officials and police officers are also said to have been used for the research.

A refugee named François tells Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) that he and other migrants were captured during their escape and forced onto buses. They were then abducted and abandoned without water in no man’s land on the border with Algeria.

According to the refugee, the Tunisian security forces threatened that anyone who intended to return would be killed. François reports that he carefully documented his nine-day odyssey.

The EU has concluded an agreement to curb irregular migration with the affected countries Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania. According to the research, the governments of the countries should deny any human rights violations.

The EU Commission emphasizes that the respective countries themselves are responsible for their security forces. According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, Spanish officials in Mauritania respect human rights.

The federal government is also involved in the illegal abduction. Since 2015, she has been training and equipping the Tunisian National Guard, which is responsible for the abductions.

According to “Spiegel”, the Interior Ministry said upon request that it attached great importance to respecting humanitarian standards and human rights of refugees and migrants. “This is also a regular topic in our discussions with the Tunisian side,” it continues. Cooperation with Tunisian security authorities will continue.

According to the BR, Green MEP Erik Marquardt criticizes agreements like the one with Tunisia as symbolic politics: “You want to give the impression of ability to act, and moral and human rights issues play a very subordinate role,” said Marquardt.

Meanwhile, migration researcher Gerald Knaus accuses the EU Commission of lacking a plan: “If we don’t explain how we imagine the mechanism that leads to fewer people getting on boats and leaving it to the imagination of these security forces, then human rights violations will result.” he said, according to the BR report.

A spokesman for EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke in Brussels of a “difficult situation”. Von der Leyen’s spokesman Eric Mamer spoke of a “rapidly changing situation”. The EU Commission will “continue to work on it”. He did not comment on the allegations in detail. Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero added that the partner countries are “sovereign states” that are responsible for their own security forces.

Tunisia is facing a migration crisis. The North African country has replaced its neighbor Libya as the most important transit country for people who want to reach the European Union via the Mediterranean. Many people are fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

The central Mediterranean is one of the most dangerous routes for refugees heading to Europe. According to the UN migration agency IOM, almost 2,500 people died or disappeared on this route last year.

Italy and other EU countries are trying to curb the number of refugees. They have offered money or equipment to Libya and Tunisia to prevent people from leaving their shores. (Tsp, Reuters)

The original for this article “Tunisia is apparently abandoning migrants in the desert – the federal government is said to be involved” comes from Tagesspiegel.