About 300 Ivorians and Malians will be repatriated on Saturday March 4 from Tunisia to escape the attacks and hostility to which they are subjected after a violent speech by President Kaïs Saïed against migrants present illegally in the country.
On February 21, Kaïs Saïed claimed that the illegal presence in Tunisia of migrants from sub-Saharan African countries was a source of
"violence and crimes"
and was part of a
"change the demographic composition"
of the country.
This speech, condemned by NGOs as
"racist and hateful"
caused an outcry in Tunisia where nationals of these sub-Saharan African countries have since reported an upsurge in attacks against them and have rushed by the dozens to their embassies to be repatriated.
After a first flight repatriating around fifty Guineans on Wednesday, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali will evacuate 300 of their nationals by plane on Saturday.
The Ivorian ambassador in Tunis, Ibrahim Sy Savané, specified that
“the number of return candidates has reached 1,100 to date”
This figure represents a large contingent of the Ivorian community which has at least 7,000 nationals in Tunisia, according to official statistics.
This is the largest community in sub-Saharan Africa, whose nationals benefit from visa exemption for entry into Tunisia.
A "surge of hatred"
Guineans who returned on the very first repatriation flight on Wednesday told AFP of a
"surge of hatred"
after Kaïs Saïed's speech, and of several days of
A good number of the 21,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa officially registered in Tunisia, most of them in an irregular situation, lost their jobs – generally informal – and their homes overnight.
Several dozen were arrested during police checks, and some are still in detention.
Others have testified to NGOs that they have been attacked, denouncing the existence of “militias” who hunt them down and rob them.
This situation has caused the influx of dozens of people to their embassies, in particular Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, which have taken charge of the emergency accommodation of a hundred of them in total since the beginning of the week.
Other migrants, even more vulnerable because they come from countries often without an embassy in Tunis, have joined an improvised camp in front of the headquarters of the International Office for Migration (IOM), where they sleep in the cold and unsanitary conditions.
Sub-Saharan students urged to stay home
To speed up repatriations, Tunisia would have given up claiming from irregular migrants the payment of penalties (80 dinars, 25 euros per month of illegal stay) which, for some, exceeded 1,000 euros, according to the Malian diplomat.
Among the candidates for voluntary return, there are also dozens of students from wealthy families or scholarship holders enrolled in prestigious private or public universities in Tunisia.
The Association of Foreign Students AESAT denounced the aggression, Sunday, February 26, of
“four Ivorian students leaving their university residence”
“a Gabonese student in front of her home”
Frightened, many returned to the country on their own throughout the week, according to one of their representatives.
As of February 22, AESAT instructed sub-Saharan students
"to stay at home and only go out in an emergency"
, asking them not to
"go to class"
An instruction which has been extended at least until March 6.