A two-day discussion in Tunis brought together 45 participants from Sweden, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan in the framework of the PSI Project on the Human Rights of Refugees and Migrant Workers in the MENA region. A project implemented in partnership with PSI Swedish affiliates and Union to Union.

In commemoration of World Refugee Day, PSI organised a Roundtable Discussion on “Human Rights, Trade Unions and Quality Public Services for Refugees and Migrant Workers,” on 10th – 11th June, in Tunis - Tunisia.

The roundtable brought together 45 participants from PSI affiliates in Sweden, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan, other trade unions including the Union Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens (UGTT), and civil society organisations.

The objectives of the roundtable discussion were to share and provide perspectives towards strengthening human rights protection and assistance to refugees and migrants in Tunisia, expose and condemn the migrant and refugee deaths in the sea; and concretize PSI trade union activities in 2019, in alliance with civil society and other stakeholders.

The discussion was organised in the framework of the PSI Project on the Human Rights of Refugees and Migrant Workers in the MENA, implemented in partnership with PSI Swedish affiliates and Union to Union.

The discussion focused on the strategies to address the needs of refugees and migrants in building peaceful and inclusive societies, policies to ensure human rights of refugees and migrants to decent work, social protection and quality public services, the role of trade unions and civil society in responding to these needs, and finally on working towards supporting the national implementation of the UN Global Compact on Refugees and the UN Global Compact on Migration.

Visit to the RSMMS Headquarters to listen to migrant workers’ testimonies.

In the afternoon of June 11th, the participants visited the headquarters of the Réseau Syndical de Migration pour la Méditerranée et le Sub Sahara (RSMMS), and listened, with the presence of the media, to the moving testimonies of 3 Sub-Saharan women migrants who shared stories of their journey to Tunisia and the exploitative conditions they were subjected to.

Participants concluded the discussion with a statement demanding governments to respect, at all times, the right to life, safety and dignity of refugees and migrants and condemning any violation of these rights. (see below)

Following the two-day discussion, participants dedicated the third day of the meeting to plan for the next phase of the PSI project in 2020-2022.

Statement
Right to Life, Safety and Dignity of Refugees and Migrants Must be Respected at All Times!

On the occasion of 20th June, World Refugee Day, we, the (45) participants representing trade unions and civil society organisations, coming together in a Roundtable Discussion on Human Rights, Trade Unions and Quality Public Services for Refugees and Migrants organized by Public Services International on 10-11 June 2019 in Tunis, call on our governments in the Middle East and North Africa Region and Europe to abide by their human rights obligation to save lives and ensure the safety and dignity of migrants and asylum-seekers stranded at sea. 

We call on all our governments to restore the search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, adopt a predictable disembarkation policy in line with international human rights law, take their fair share of responsibility for the protection of refugees and increase pathways for regular migration.

We issue this call to condemn, once again, the rising incidents of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.

On the 10th of May 2019, some 65 people have drowned after their boat sank approximately 45 miles off the coast of Tunisia. This is one of the worst incidents on the Mediterranean in months, according to the report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

This is a tragic and terrible reminder of the risks faced by refugees and migrants who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, seeking for a better life.

According to the same UNHCR report, this latest incident is the highest loss of life since some 117 died or went missing in mid-January 2019. 164 people died on the route between Libya and Europe in the first four months of 2019. With the lack of presence and capacity for search and rescue, UNHCR fears that more tragic events like this will happen in the coming weeks and months.

In the failure of States to uphold these rights, frontline workers, volunteers and fishermen are taking up the rescue operations and end up being unjustly accused and prosecuted for trafficking and smuggling. This was what happened to Spanish firefighter Miguel Roldán, who is facing up to 20 years of imprisonment in the Italian court for rescuing thousands of people from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. This is completely unacceptable.

Saving lives is not a crime!

On World Refugee Day, we demand that the right to life, safety and dignity of refugees and migrants must be respected at all times. As trade unions and civil society, we stand ready to put pressure on our governments to demand for these rights as enshrined in international human rights law and labour standards and to expose and condemn any violations thereof.