Refugees from sub-Saharan Africa on Tuesday tented outside the UNHCR headquarters in Tunis’s affluent Berges du Lac suburb were dispersed by Tunisian police using tear gas.
After remarks made by President Kais Saied in February that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were generating crime and represented a “plot” to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup, the homeless migrants have been protesting outside the UN building to demand removal. He did not offer any supporting data.
Famoussa Koita, a Malian who has been approved by the U.N. as a legal asylum seeker, claimed that many people had been waiting for the organisation to resolve their cases for two or three years.
“I saw that my brothers were there, they were blocking the door all around. I called the UNHCR officials. I told them: ‘Be careful, you are playing with fire.’ From what I see here, they can explode at any time. So it’s not good. UNHCR officials should step out and talk to the people (asylum seekers) and give them an appointment,” he said.
The UNHCR stated earlier this month that it was halting its global asylum operations as it switched to a new registration system.
According to reports, when African migrants said they were “not safe” in Tunisia, authorities broke up the encampment outside the organisation’s office there in Tunis.
The police intervened, and 80 migrants were held, according to interior ministry spokesman Faker Bouzghaya.
“I live in front of this UNHCR (building), and the asylum seekers have been there for more than 25 days. Last year, there was the same situation and they were evacuated. This year, they are here but what happened today is not normal. They are blocking our way. We can’t sleep anymore. We can’t go out anymore,” said Elyes Ben Zakour, a 19-year old Tunis resident.
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