Hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants fled Tunisia on repatriation flights on Saturday following a rise in racist attacks in the North African country following a controversial speech by President Kais Saied. As tensions reached a boiling point, FRANCE 24 spoke to Patrick*, a Congolese student who decided to stay despite fears for his safety.
“Right now, we’re too scared to go out for a walk like before,” says Patrick*, 29, from Congo. Tunisia Six months ago to study international business. Over the past few weeks, attitudes towards people like him from across sub-Saharan Africa have hardened in Tunisia.
Sub-Saharan migrants living in the North African country have long faced racial slurBut in view of the comments of the Tunisian President Kais Saeed Tension reached its peak on 21 February. one in hard speech Targeting illegal immigration, the president called for “urgent measures” against “hordes of illegal immigrants” arriving from sub-Saharan Africa, whom he accused of bringing “violence, crime and unacceptable work” to Tunisia.
is buzzing great replacement theory Popular among some right-wing groups in Europe and the US, he said that illegal immigration was the result of a “criminal scheme … to change the demographic composition of Tunisia”.
“The undeclared goal of the continuing waves of illegal immigration is to consider Tunisia a fully African country that has no ties to Arab and Islamic countries,” he added.
Syed’s speech was condemned by the African Union, NGOs and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The latter criticized his remarks as “xenophobic, offensive and disrespectful to the community of sub-Saharan migrants”.
But, since the speech, there have been attacks on people from sub-Saharan Africa living in Tunisia have multiplied, “I came to Tunisia legally, with my passport, to come and study,” says Patrick. “But because some people enter Tunisia illegally, people make sweeping statements that all black people have come to take over their country.”
according to official data Quoted by Tunisian rights group FTDESThere are about 21,000 sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia, a country of about 12 million inhabitants.
Partik has stopped leaving the house to avoid being targeted. “We’re scared. For the last two weeks I’ve been staying inside. I haven’t been attacked, but I have friends who have been. Since the Tunisian president made his speech, there are Tunisians who attack black people. attacking,” he says.
He lives with another student, who has also avoided leaving home. The couple occasionally “trys” to go out and buy food. “We stay close to home to buy bread and juice. [We only go] In small shops. That’s it.”
“There is an atmosphere of fear. “The situation is very tense right now,” says Sadia Mosbah, president of M’nemty, an organization working to fight against racial discrimination in Tunisia.
Four sub-Saharan Africans were attacked with knives in the Tunisian city of Sfax on the night of 25 February. RFI reported,
“People in sub-Saharan Africa are victims of arbitrary attacks,” says Mosbah, “they are being stigmatized because of the color of their skin and as a result, some black Tunisians are also being attacked, as are Sfax. I happened to one of the victims.”
In addition to the president’s speech, Mosbah says that the Tunisian Nationalist Party (Le Parti Nationalist Tunisien), founded in 2018, has been fueling anti-migrant tensions for months through its speeches and door-to-door campaigns.
“Militia” [from the party] are patrolling the streets in Greater Tunis, Sfax and Medenine, ordering landlords to bring sub-Saharan Africans off the street. They are threatening shopkeepers with closure, legal action, fines and even prison unless they stop selling milk, rice and semolina to sub-Saharan Africans,” Mosbah and psychiatrist and author Fatma Bouvet de la Maisonneuve wrote. an open letter Published in the French daily Le Monde on 3 March.
Black African immigrants have been “evicted from housing without their belongings,” Mosbah says. In his name – his money has been stolen.
‘we are afraid’
In an increasingly alarming climate, sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia have been flocking to their embassies in recent days, demanding emergency repatriation. Many are unregistered migrants and have lost their jobs and their homes overnight.
The Ivory Coast embassy in Tunis sent home 50 citizens on March 1 – including entire families with children and infants – who had been camping outside the official building on mattresses and under tarpaulins.
About 50 Guinean migrants landed in Conakry on the same day after having fled Tunisia on the first repatriation flight following Saied’s speech. One told AFP after the plane had landed that the events in Tunisia were “an absurd outpouring of hatred”.
The growing number of sub-Saharan Africans fleeing the country is a source of concern for Patrick. “We are scared. Our sub-Saharan brothers are returning home and now, those of us who are still here are scared of reprisals if we stay,” believes the business student. that the international community should take steps to “give a sense of security to sub-Saharans living in Tunisia”.
But at the moment he does not want to leave. “I came here with one purpose: to study. I paid for my plane ticket to come here and I paid for my school fees. I could have returned to my country for my safety, but I was losing
Still, he says: “I feel threatened. We are trying to remain optimistic. We hope things get better. But we are still afraid.
This article is translated from original in french,