Tunis (AFP) - UN
experts said Friday that almost 5,500 Tunisians are fighting alongside
jihadists abroad, urging Tunis to adopt a "national strategic plan" to
curb the flow.
"The number of Tunisian foreign fighters is one of
the highest among those travelling to join conflicts abroad such as in
Syria and Iraq," said Elzbieta Karska, current head of a UN working
group on the use of mercenaries.
"Sophisticated travel networks
operate to take recruits across the porous borders, and sometimes
through areas where trafficking in people and illicit goods may not be
effectively controlled," Karska said after an eight-day mission to
"Testimony has documented that the routes taken entail
travel through Libya, then Turkey and its border at Antakya, and then
Syria," she said.
Karska also pointed to possible links between
mercenaries and foreign recruits to groups such as the Islamic State
group battling in Iraq and Syria.
"It was reported to us that
recruiters in these networks are well paid –- one figure given is that
of $3,000 to $10,000 per new recruit, depending on the person's
qualifications," she said.
She said an estimated 4,000 Tunisians
were in Syria, between 1,000 and 1,500 in Libya, 200 in Iraq, 60 in Mali
and 50 in Yemen. Around 625 who have returned from Iraq are being
prosecuted, the expert said.
Karska urged Tunisian authorities to
adopt "a national strategic plan... (to) respond to the diverse
profiles and recruitment methods... (to) ensure the comprehensive
adoption of international human rights standards in all its elements".
has brought in a raft of new security measures, including arming
tourist police, since a jihadist gunman killed 38 foreign holidaymakers,
30 of them Britons, at a beach resort on June 26.
Watch on Friday accused Tunisian authorities of "arbitrarily preventing
citizens from travelling outside the country since at least March".
It said the policy affected mainly men and women under 35.
on official statements, the measure is part of efforts to prevent
people from joining extremist armed groups abroad," the New York-based
"However, turning back citizens at the airport,
without any order from a prosecutor or a court, is arbitrary and
violates Tunisian and international law."