(Tunis) – A speech by President Kais Saied on February 21, 2023 in a recent effort to undo the grave harm caused to black African migrants, asylum seekers and refugees Tunisia Not enough, Human Rights Watch said today. measures announced The lack of necessary steps to end the violent attacks, robberies and vandalism by Tunisian citizens, arbitrary evictions by landlords, and job terminations by employers that followed Saied’s speech on 5 March.
Meanwhile, scores of black African foreigners, asylum-seekers and refugees, many of them suddenly homeless, are camping in front of the headquarters of international organisations, saying they are more exposed to attacks and arbitrary arrests in Tunisia than elsewhere. feel safe from. Others are telling Human Rights Watch that they avoid going out as far as possible, keeping a low profile elsewhere.
“After stoking the fires of anti-immigrant violence, President Syed now offers only a spoonful of water to stop them,” said Salsabil Chellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Tunisian government should immediately stop arbitrarily arresting black African foreigners, review individual cases to ensure due process for all those arrested, release those arbitrarily detained , and must swiftly investigate and hold those responsible for racist attacks and abuses.”
Between February 24 and March 3, Human Rights Watch interviewed 16 citizens from West and Central African countries who lived in Tunisia who reported being beaten, robbed, or otherwise mistreated since the president’s speech. Documentation done. These include seven migrant workers, of whom six are undocumented and one is a legal resident; five students; and four refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Thirteen of those interviewed said that Tunisians attacked, looted, or discriminated against them or used racist slurs between 21 February and 1 March. Since the President’s statements, 11 have been arbitrarily evicted, and 2 have fled their homes fearing for their safety. Eight out of nine who worked before the speech have not been allowed to work and have lost all sources of income. Nearly all said the president’s statements and an increase in racist attacks have left them concerned for their safety and afraid to walk the streets.
A 2021 Estimate The number of foreigners from non-Maghreb African countries in Tunisia is more than 21,000 in a country of 12 million people. There are approximately 7,200 students in Tunisian schools. Ministry of Higher Education, UNHCR reported that 9,000 refugees and asylum seekers By January the country was registered with a majority from Ivory Coast, Syria, Cameroon, and Sudan, and smaller numbers of Guinean, Libyan, and other nationalities.
In early February, Tunisian police made arrests, targeting black African foreigners based on their appearance or living in their neighbourhoods. there were at least 850 Allegedly Arrested indiscriminately, apparently on the basis of racial profiling, according to the Tunisian chapter of Lawyers Without Borders (ASF).
Those arrested included undocumented people and others with credentials, including some registered refugees and asylum seekers. On 9 March, the Union of African Students and Trainees in Tunisia (AESAT) told Human Rights Watch that since February 21, at least 44 students have been arrested and some are still in custody. More than 40 students reported violent attacks.
Syed on 21 February Claimed that a “criminal scheme” through “successive waves of irregular migration” was aimed at “changing the demographic make-up of Tunisia … to consider it purely African with no affiliation to Arab or Islamic nations.” Mentioning crime and undocumented immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in the same breath, he ordered officials to strictly enforce the law regulating the presence of foreigners in Tunisia.
Black African foreigners in Tunisia have been the subject of sporadic racist attacks For years by the Tunisian. But after the president’s speech, they faced an increase in attacks, reportedly frequent robberies, as well as evictions and job losses. According to the ASF, instead of assisting the victims, the police arrested some undocumented immigrants when they tried to report the attacks.
On 5 March, the President issued a statement Rejecting “perceived racism” and listing planned measures to “facilitate processes for foreign residents and protect diverse communities”, including streamlining registration for foreign students, facilitating voluntary repatriation and reporting abuse Includes a new hotline to do the same.
However, the statement did not condemn criminal attacks on black immigrants, or instruct security forces to protect those at risk or prosecute foreigners responsible for carrying out criminal acts against them. officials have just announced an arrest In a wave of attacks, create an atmosphere of impotence that may encourage potential attackers.
The following are accounts of three black African foreign nationals in Tunisia interviewed by Human Rights Watch.
A 20 year old Malian, studying International Business, has been in Tunisia since September 2020. On 1 March, on her way home from her first day of an internship in the center of Tunis, a man pulled out a razor blade and tried to kill her, shouting racist slurs and telling her to go back to “his” country . The student tried to defend himself but still got cuts on his neck and chest.
He went to a police station to report the assault, accompanied by the dean of his school – who acted as an interpreter. The officers asked him what happened, gave him a transcript in Arabic that didn’t have any relevant information on it and told him to go to the hospital, they said. Between February 21 and March 1, she left the hostel only once to buy groceries because she felt she was in danger.
On 27 February, a 17-year-old Cameroonian who is a UNHCR-registered asylum seeker, was evicted from his apartment in Ariana, north of the capital, even though he had paid his rent the day before. That same night, a group of men, apparently Tunisian, attacked her and her roommates with knives and sticks, threw stones at them, and robbed her. They were chanting “Kill the Blacks” in French, which he understood, he said. He said that the assailants robbed him of his phone and cash.
He displayed an open wound on his Achilles tendon, bruises on his thigh, and slashes on the right sleeve and back of his jacket, which he said were made by an assailant’s knife. Police witnessed the attack and did not intervene, he said. When he spoke to Human Rights Watch, he had been sleeping on a piece of cardboard in front of the Tunis office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) since his expulsion. He said that he fled the war in his country after all his family members were killed.
An Ivory Coast woman with 5-month-old twin babies has been in Tunisia since 2017 and has a valid residency card. In early February, she opened a beauty salon in the Sidi Amor neighborhood in the north of the capital. She said that the proprietor, who had rented the saloon to her, later reneged on their agreement, claiming that the police had said that “blacks could not do business.” The next morning, 24 February, he found the owner with six other men on site destroying equipment and furniture with an axe.
On 25 February, her landlord evicted her from her apartment in Roud, telling her to “go back home”. She and her children have since relied on friends for shelter, staying indoors as much as possible because of the scare. She also described discrimination at grocery stores, where she said merchants arbitrarily inflated the prices of basic items like rice when she reached the checkout.
experts And Journalists have documented Several other assaults and abuses in recent weeks. The attacks have been fueled by a significant increase in anti-Black rhetoric and hate speech on online platforms in recent months, driven in part by Tunisian National Party (PNT), which is calling for the deportation of all undocumented sub-Saharan migrants. Online hate peaked between February 20 and February 26 reports Posted by Fact-Check on February 28 stage falso,
In 2018, Tunisia passed law 50 On “the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination” leading law in the Middle East and North Africa region that criminalises racial discrimination and carries a prison term of one month to one year for racist comments or acts, and for spreading hatred or ideas based on racial discrimination or racial superiority punishable with imprisonment for a term of one year to three years. anyhow.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Tunisia is a state party, calls on countries to “condemn racial discrimination” and aims to “eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to promote understanding among all races”. forces you to take measures. It states that countries should “prevent and eliminate, by all appropriate means, racial discrimination by any person, group or organization” and “discourage anything that reinforces racial divisions”.