Day Three: Zarzis, Tunisia

But today, I met a group of people in the camp who have no home, and no place to which they can return. They are referred to here as “persons of concern”, and they hail from countries like Somalia and Eritrea. No-one in the humanitarian community would ever consider sending people back to countries as unstable and violent as these. So the future for these particular people now living in this temporary camp is uncertain.

Sadly, uncertainty is something that – to a person – these Somalis and Eritreans know well. In conversations with some of them today, we were told stories of how they risked everything to flee the violence in their own countries. They traveled across a continent to try to reach a better life in Europe, only to end up trapped on the African shores of Libya. 

And Libya was far from a promised land. Some told stories of being detained in harsh conditions – crammed into a single cell with several others for months and years upon end without access to the light of day, their friends and family believing they were dead. Now Libya is at war, and these Somalis and Eritreans have been forced once again to flee for their lives.

But unlike the majority of migrant workers who populate the transit camp, there will be no quick departure for these “persons of concern”. The priority for aid groups right now, of necessity, is to clear the camp of those who have a home to which they can return. Only then can attention be turned to the people whom I met today. But as one man said: “I would rather live in the camp for ten years, than return to Eritrea.”

It will not take that long. Soon, aid agencies will begin to start the process of resettling these people in places that aren’t wracked by war, violence, and unrest. And when that time comes, governments around the world will have to step up and provide them with the opportunity to live a far better life than what they have known.

I think that they all deserve at least that.