Hundreds of migrants have flown home from Tunisia
TUNIS: Nearly 280 Malians and Ivorians left Tunisia on repatriation flights on Saturday, fearing a spate of violence since a controversial tirade against migrants by the president.
In February, President Kais Saied ordered officials to take “urgent measures” to combat irregular migration and claimed without evidence that “a criminal plot” was underway “to change Tunisia’s demographic composition”.
Saied accused migrants of being behind most crimes in the North African country, leading to a spate of layoffs, evictions and physical attacks.
The African Union expressed “deep shock and concern at the form and substance” of Saied’s comments, while governments in sub-Saharan Africa scrambled to bring home hundreds of frightened nationals who flocked to their embassies for help.
A plane carrying 133 Malian nationals left Tunisia around noon (1100 GMT) on Saturday, a Malian diplomat said.
The group included “25 women and nine children and 25 students,” the diplomat added on condition of anonymity.
Two hours later, another plane took off from Tunis to repatriate 145 Ivorians, Ivory Coast’s Ambassador Ibrahim Sy Savane told AFP.
An AFP photographer saw the Malian group leave their embassy in Tunis early in the morning and board buses for the airport, where a chartered plane was waiting for them.
“Tunisians don’t like us, so we’re forced to leave,” Bagresou Sego told AFP before boarding the bus.
Adrahman Dombia, who came to Tunisia four years ago, said he had to drop out of university in the middle of the year. “I’m going back because I’m not sure.”
Another Malian migrant, Baril, said he had a residence permit for Tunisia but joined the repatriation flight anyway.
“We ask with great respect that President Kais Saied consider our other brothers and treat them well,” he told AFP.
A first group of 50 Guineans were flown home on Wednesday.
According to official figures, around 21,000 undocumented migrants from other parts of Africa live in Tunisia, a country with around 12 million inhabitants.
Critics accuse Saied, who has seized almost all power since July 2021, in the indebted country with inflation and lack of essential goods to establish a new dictatorship.
Since Saied delivered his February 21 speech, human rights groups have reported an increase in vigilante violence, including stabbings of African migrants.
Jean Badel Gnabli, head of an association of Ivorian migrants in Tunisia, told the AFP news agency from the airport that the group leaving on Saturday “slept in hotels”.
The whole community lives in fear, he previously said. “They feel like they’ve been handed over to mafia justice.”
Ambassador Savane said 1,100 of the roughly 7,000 Ivorians in Tunisia had applied for repatriation.
Michael Elie Bio Vamet, chairman of an Ivorian student association, said 30 students had signed up for the repatriation flight despite having residence permits.
“They don’t feel well,” he told AFP over the phone. “Some of them have been victims of racist attacks. Some are at the end of their studies, others have dropped out.”
“Almost daily there are attacks, threats, they even get kicked out or physically attacked by landlords,” he added.
Many African migrants in Tunisia lost their jobs and homes overnight.
Dozens were arrested after identity checks, and some are still in custody.
Migrants whose countries have embassies in Tunisia rushed to them seeking help.
The embassies of Ivory Coast and Mali this week provided emergency shelters for dozens of their citizens who had been evicted from their homes, including young children.
Those without diplomatic representation in Tunisia set up makeshift camps outside the offices of the International Organization for Migration in Tunis.
Among those heading home are dozens of fee-paying or scholarship students who were enrolled in Tunisian universities and legally in the country.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch