Violence Against Migrants in Tunisia:
- On Wednesday, March 1, African countries, including Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Mali, began evacuating hundreds of their citizens from Tunisia in light of the escalating violence towards Black migrants.
- Repatriation flights continued throughout the weekend.
- According to Tunis reporter Simon Speakman Cordall: “Gangs of predominantly young men are nightly kicking down doors and dragging Black migrant families into the street, some to watch their possessions burn. Testimonies of those confined to their houses, too scared to emerge for fear of their neighbors reporting them, are legion.”
- This violence was largely invoked by a statement released by Tunisian President Kais Saied on February 22. Saied urged security personnel to take urgent measures against “hordes of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are still arriving [in Tunisia], with all the violence, crime and unacceptable practices that entails.”
- He further accused migrants of participating in “a criminal plot... to change Tunisia's demographic make-up.”
- While Saied initially denied racism, it was not until Sunday, March 5 that the president indicated possible legal repercussions for those conducting violence against migrants.
Domestic and International Response:
- After Saied’s controversial statement, around 1,000 human rights and civil society activists marched in Tunis to protest Saied’s comments and the corresponding violence.
- A group of 18 Tunisian human rights groups, including Mnemty and the Tunisian Observatory for Human Rights, responded by releasing a joint statement in solidarity with migrants in Tunisia.
- On March 4, demonstrators in Tunis continued to condemn the president’s comments, as well as the ongoing arrests of political opposition leaders.
- On Sunday, March 5, World Bank President David Malpas informed staff that the entity would pause work with Tunisia in light of President Saied’s comments regarding African migrants.
- The African Union has postponed the Pan-African Network Conference on Fighting Illicit Financial Flows in Africa, which was scheduled to take place in Tunis from March 15 to 17.
- Once hailed the democratic leader of the Arab world, Tunisia has been in political crisis since July 2021 when President Kais Saied dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament.
- In July 2022, Saied called a referendum for a new constitution, which expanded presidential powers, weakened the legislative branch, and characterized Tunisia as an Islamic country.
- According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, there are around 21,000 sub-Saharan migrants currently living in Tunisia.
- Many do not hold residency status and intend to reach Europe as their final destination.