Around 50 migrants from the Shousha refugee camp continued to stage a sit-in Tuesday outside the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a day after 100 demonstrated in downtown Tunis.
They all traveled to the capital from the camp, located near the Libyan border, to protest the UNHCR’s refusal to grant them official refugee status.
Around half of the migrants have returned to the camp for personal reasons, according to Nicanor Haon, a coordinator for Le Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (FTDES), a group supporting the migrants’ protests.
“A meeting was held this morning between representatives of the refugees and those of UNHCR to discuss together their demands, yet [the UNHCR] said ‘no’ to their claims,” Haon said.
Dalia Al Achi, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Tunisia, said the agency will only grant official refugee status to those who fled their home countries due to political and social unrest, not for economic reasons.
“We studied their files twice and cannot re-open the files again,” Achi said. “When we met their representatives today, we realized that… some organizations are feeding a non-existing hope in the hearts of these rejected asylum seekers.”
Hoan rejected UNHCR’s interpretation of the plight of the migrants.
“The refusal to recognize the refugees of Shousha camp is not a good vision, because all of them fled from political unrest (the Libyan revolution),” Haon argued. “They are not migrants and did not flee for economic reasons.”
Discussing the migrants’ sit-in near UNHCR headquarter, Hoan called on members of Tunisian society to bring food and blankets in a show of solidarity.