Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has denied allegations of stoking anti-Black racism, clarifying that his recent comments regarding migrants were misinterpreted by his opponents. Saied had been facing criticism and concern from the international community after ordering a crackdown on sub-Saharan African migrants and accusing a perceived plot to erase Tunisia’s identity. The comments triggered racist abuse against Black people in Tunisia, leading to some African countries evacuating their citizens.
In a meeting with the president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaru Embalo, President Saied denied being racist, stating that he is African and has sub-Saharan African friends and family members. However, he did not address the racist sentiment that has surged in Tunisia’s streets and online. Saied upheld his call for a crackdown on illegal migration and affirmed that Tunisian authorities are enforcing the law by arresting migrants without residency documents.
The recent crackdown has resulted in several opposition figures being arrested, leading to concerns from the European Union, the United States, and the World Bank. The World Bank has temporarily paused its Country Partnership Framework with Tunisia citing its “core values of inclusion, respect, and anti-racism in all shapes and forms.”
More than 100 migrants are camped outside the International Organization for Migration office in Tunisia, and the agency is working non-stop to help them. The situation remains tense, with many expressing concern about the rise of anti-Black racism in Tunisia. Saied’s recent comments have only added fuel to the fire, and it remains to be seen how the situation will develop in the coming weeks and months.
Overall, the situation in Tunisia highlights the ongoing challenges of migration and race relations in many parts of the world. As countries continue to grapple with these issues, it will be important for leaders to address them with sensitivity and respect, recognising the dignity and humanity of all people regardless of their race, nationality, or background.
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