Hundreds of African migrants fly home from Tunisia after attacks


Sub-saharan migrants camp in front of the International Organization for Migration office in Tunis, Tunisia.
AP Photo/Hassene DridiSub-saharan migrants camp in front of the International Organization for Migration office in Tunis, Tunisia.

African migrants in Tunisia arrested, evicted, attacked after President Saied launched an attack against them

In Tunisia, some 300 people boarded repatriation flights on Saturday and returned to Mali and the Ivory Coast, fearful of a wave of violence after the government launched an attack against migrants.

Last month, President Kais 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.”

He claimed that migrants were behind most of the crime in the north African country, fueling a spate of firings, evictions, and attacks. Since Saied gave his speech on February 21, rights groups have reported a spike in vigilante violence, including the stabbings of African migrants.

Many African migrants in Tunisia lost their jobs and homes overnight. Dozens were arrested after identity checks, and some are reportedly still being detained.

The African Union expressed “deep shock and concern” at his remarks, while governments in sub-Saharan Africa scrambled to bring home hundreds of frightened nationals who flocked to their embassies for help.

According to official figures, there are around 21,000 undocumented migrants from other parts of Africa in Tunisia, a country of around 12 million people. Critics accuse Saied – who has seized almost total power since July 2021 – of seeking to install a new dictatorship in the country.

In Mali, a group of 135 nationals arrived in Bamako, AFP reported. They were welcomed by Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara and the minister for Malians living abroad, Alhamdou Ag Ilyene, who noted that those onboard included 97 men, 25 women, and 13 children.

Adrahmen Dombia, a Malian national who arrived in Tunisia four years ago, said he had to stop his university studies mid-year: “I’m going back because I’m not safe.”

Meanwhile, a flight carrying 145 passengers also landed in Abidjan, welcomed by Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Patrick Achi and several ministers. 

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