Escalation of racism in Tunisia must be stopped
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is deeply concerned by the widespread escalation of racist attacks and discrimination against sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia over the past two weeks. These attacks were sparked by a statement released by President Kais Saied on 21 February 2023, in which he called for the expulsion of undocumented migrants and claimed that the ‘goal’ of migration is to change the ethnic demographics of Tunisia. MRG joins several Tunisian civil society organizations and the African Union in condemning the remarks.
A statement by Tunisia’s presidency, in response to wide condemnation, announced measures to improve the situation of migrants from other African countries. However, MRG remains concerned by the lack of measures that would specifically address the situation of migrants who have been the target of these racist attacks.
MRG calls upon the presidency of Tunisia to end the escalation of racism and to introduce measures to redress the situation for those affected by it. Tunisia was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to criminalize racial discrimination; today the state must show that it abides by its own laws.
The recent violence shows a targeting towards sub-Saharan individuals. Landlords have evicted Black migrants from their houses, leaving families homeless, and many have been fired by their employers overnight. The community has suffered mob attacks, stabbings and beatings. Gangs have reportedly been forcibly evicting migrants, dragging them into the street to watch their belongings burn and as a result, many are confined to their homes in fear. Further, public service providers have begun requiring the presentation of paperwork.
The situation is widespread: MRG’s partner Avocats Sans Frontières has received more than 500 reports of incidents while the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights reports more than 1,800 arrests.
What we are seeing is a perpetuation of structural, anti-Black racism that permeates Tunisian society. Black Tunisians are being mistaken for migrants and are suffering renewed discrimination. Misinformation and defamation campaigns on social media have systematically targeted anti-racist activists. This includes prominent Black Tunisian anti-racist activist Saadia Mosbah, co-founder and president of MRG’s partner organization Mnemty, who has been the object of a racist smear campaign on Facebook.
We express our profound solidarity with its Tunisian partners and all in the country who are speaking out against racism.
Photo: A woman carries a banner, which reads: ‘Feminist, Tunisian, African. We are all men and women immigrants’, during a protest after Tunisian President Kais Saied ordered security forces to stop all illegal migration and expel all undocumented migrants, in Tunis, Tunisia, 25 February 2023. Credit: Reuters / Jihed Abidellaoui.
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