Migrants: Black Africans have no future in Tunisia
A migrant originally from Sierra Leone has told the BBC’s Newsday programme that black people have no future in Tunisia due to escalating racial tensions with Arab people in the country.
“In Tunisia, black sub-Saharan Africans will not have a future here and neither will our children,” said Josephus Thomas, a construction worker.
“We need evacuation,” out of Tunisia he said, “even” if that meant going to another African country, he added.
Some countries have been offering to repatriate their citizens, such as Ivory Coast and Guinea.
The tensions started after President Kais Saied accused sub-Saharan African migrants living in the country of causing a crime wave and described them as a demographic threat.
Since then black Africans have told the BBC they have faced increased racism in Tunisia.
Thomas described one frightening scene where he saw “Tunisian boys who were armed with sticks, sharp metal, knives and stones” chasing some Gambian, Senegalese and Guinean migrants.
He went on to describe the situationion in Tunisia as “messy and horrible” and said he has attempted to leave by boat himself.
“If I have the opportunity to leave by boat I will take it because it’s better than living in Tunisia where you don’t know what they might do to you next.”
Some 300 West African migrants left Tunisia on repatriation flights, fearful of a wave of violence since President Saied delivered a controversial tirade last month.
In his February 21 speech, Saied ordered officials to take “urgent measures” to tackle irregular migration, claiming without evidence that “a criminal plot” was underway “to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup”.
Saied charged that migrants were behind most crime in the North African country, fuelling a spate of sackings, evictions and physical attacks against the community.
The African Union expressed “deep shock and concern at the form and substance” of Saied’s remarks, while governments in sub-Saharan Africa scrambled to organise the repatriation of hundreds of fearful nationals who flocked to their embassies for help.
A first group of 50 Guineans were flown home, while Ivory Coast and Mali prepared to repatriate a combined 295 of their citizens on special flights, diplomats and community organisers said.
“145 people are leaving this morning after having spent the night in hotels,” Jean Badel Gnabli, head of an association of Ivorian migrants in Tunisia, told AFP from the airport ahead of departure.
He had said earlier that the whole community was living in fear. “They feel like they’ve been handed over to mob justice."