Civil society groups condemn President’s remarks about measures against influx of irregular African migrants
22/02/2023 18:30, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - Civil society groups in Tunisia, on Wednesday, spoke out against what they call "inciting speech" of president Kais Saied against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

They unanimously denounced the president's recent call for urgent measures to stop the influx of irregular migrants from the region to Tunisia, arguing that it infringes on international conventions protecting migrants and laws prohibiting racial discrimination.

They considered that the president's speech could contribute to rising violence, crime, and more forms of racial discrimination.

President Kais Saied highlighted, as he chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in Carthage Tuesday, the need for immediate action to put a halt to the influx of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia.

This situation, he noted, is highly abnormal, with the continued influx of these migrants resulting in an increase in crime, violence, and other reprehensible practices. It is unacceptable and requires immediate intervention to restore order and security to the region.

Member of the steering committee of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) Nabila Hamza said the President's speech includes "incitement to hatred" and "racial discrimination against African migrants."

A large number of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have arrived in Tunisia legally, including students, investors and others, she added.

Hamza also said that the number of African students in Tunisia has decreased significantly in recent years due to the rise of hate speech and discriminatory discourse against them.

She also deplored the "arbitrary arrest campaigns" by the police against dozens of African migrants, based on "race or skin colour," deeming these practices "a disgrace to Tunisia."

Similarly, representative of the Observatory for the Defence of the Right to Difference Sirine Hammami told TAP that she urged a dialogue with Tunisian and African civil society organisations on the issue of migration and migrants in order to deal with this issue within a legislative and human rights framework.

She rejected the remarks made about the influx of irregular African migrants in Tunisia, recalling that a survey prepared by the National Institute of Statistics in 2021 reported 21,500 migrants including students and others.

Spokesperson for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) Romdhane Ben Amor had told TAP on February 20 that an incitement campaign targeting sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia has taken a dangerous turn, particularly on social media through influencers and their supporters among MPs and some political parties.

He criticised the silence of state institutions in the face of this campaign targeting African migrants, saying that there is a gap between the official discourse advocating respect for their rights and the reality of "abusive practices" against them.

President Saied had ordered on Tuesday an action on all diplomatic, security and military levels with a strict and vigorous application of the law governing the status of foreigners in Tunisia.

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