Friday, July 19, 2024
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Tunisia: Violence in Tunisia Against Black Migrants Ended With Their Deportation From Sfax

Calm has been partially restored in Tunisia’s port city of Sfax after xenophobic violence targeting sub-Saharan migrants flared up once again. The violence was triggered by the death a local man following an altercation between locals and migrants.

Three migrants from Cameroon have been arrested after clashes between Tunisians and migrants led to 41-year-old Nizar Amri being stabbed to death on 3 July.

Tension was simmering weeks ahead, with sporadic confrontations. The killing led to violent reactions from locals in Sfax who “vowed to avenge his death”.

Paramedic Lazhar Neji, working in an emergency department in a hospital, described “an inhumane… bloody night that makes you tremble”.

He said that migrants were thrown from terraces, others attacked with swords. Women and children were also among the injured.

“Our life is in danger,” Mohamed Mansari, a migrant from Sierra Leone told F24 news channel while trying to escape Sfax. He is travelling to the capital city, with other migrants, in order to sk for help from their embassies.

“We’ve looked for cars, we cannot have cars. So, we’ve decided to run, to take the train to Tunis for our safety,” he added.

🇹🇳 Racial tensions in the Tunisian coastal city of #Sfax flared Wednesday into violence targeting migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Dozens of them were forcibly evicted from the city, as @liliagaida, Hamdi Tlili and @FadilAliriza report 👇 pic.twitter.com/wXKCEDNrNs— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) July 6, 2023

Arbitrary expulsion

It appears that locals and the authorities are not distinguishing between refugees, asylum seekers or undocumented migrants.

Sub-Saharan African migrants have been expelled from their home, their mobile phones destroyed, rounded up and left in a closed militarised zone in the desert, near the Libyan border, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES).

Along with over 25 NGOs, FTDES denounced the “arbitrary and illegal explusions” which “happen all too often”.

“The situation right now is not good because some Arab guys attacked us, they rape the black girls, stole our money, and all other types of things. It is not good,” 20-year-old Aboobakar from Sierra Leone told F24.

Media footage show residents of Sfax cheering as the police embarked migrants in buses leaving the city.

FTDES documented 28 people who have disappeared. It added that around 20 people, including women and children, have been taken to the coastal town of Ras Ajdir on the border with Libya.

Policing for EU

Sfax, the second largest city of Tunisia and its economic capital, is a transit city for illegal boat-crossing to Italy.

Tunisia is under pressure from the European Union (EU) to contain migrants on its territory. In June, Ursula von der Layen, the president of the European Commission, travelled to Tunis and offered President Kais Saied, a 900-million-euro package plus 150 million euros in immediate support. Aside from trade and investment, the funds are to be used for border management and to combat human trafficking.

“The deal from the EU will only legitimise President Kais Saied’s authoritarian grip,” said Ahlam Chemlali, visiting scholar at Yale University.

Saied was accused of stirring racist sentiment in the country after a speech he made in February.

He ordered the expulsion of all undocumented migrants because they “bring violence.” He added that immigration is a “criminal plot” to “change the demographic make-up” of Tunisia.

His remarks were criticised as “hate speech and intimidation against migrants” both locally and internationally, including the African Union (AU).