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Tunisia: Civil organisations express solidarity with drowning victims' families, residents expel government officials

Tunisian flag
Tunisian flag

Tension continues in the Tunisian city of Zarzis following the drowning of 18 illegal immigrants. Angry protesters expelled government officials after they made statements residents considered offensive. Meanwhile, civil organisations called for organising a protest in the capital in solidarity with the families of the victims.

A video of protesters in the city of Zarzis damaging the car of the governor of Medenine was circulated on social media. Some sources confirmed that the protesters expelled the governor and the head of the district of Zarzis from the district headquarters following their allegedly offensive statements.

Zarzis is witnessing continuous anger and tension after one of the illegal immigration boats sank and the authorities buried the victims in a cemetery designated for unidentified persons. The authorities were later forced to exhume the victims' bodies and conduct a genetic analysis.

Twenty civil organisations, including the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) and the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), issued a joint statement of solidarity with the families of the Zarzis tragedy victims. According to the statement: "The negative interaction of the state along with its agencies and its blackout of information contributed to social tension in the district, and the people were forced to rely on their capabilities to search for the missing people to know their fate."

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The statement pointed out that families of missing people: "Are still waiting to know the fate of their sons in the absence of a single official from the side of the state who provide the correct information and the procedures to be followed. The regional authorities also quickly buried the bodies of immigrants without respecting the due arrangements during these crises, which exacerbated the families' suffering. They felt that the state is attempting to black out the suffering and close the file as soon as possible."

The organisations that signed the statement commended the: "Struggle of the sailors of Zarzis and its people and their solidarity with the families of the missing persons." They denounced: "The frustrating policies of the state, its agencies and its misleading propaganda, which did not take into account neither its duties towards its citizens nor the suffering of the families of the missing persons and the people of Zarzis."

The organisations also called for: "Humanitarian treatment that preserves the dignity of victims of illegal immigration and ensures that the bodies of immigrants are decently buried, with respect for the arrangements that allow their families from inside and outside Tunisia to identify them and retrieve their bodies."

The organisations held the Tunisian authorities responsible for: "Developing a national strategy for immigration that is integrative and guarantees rights," calling on Tunisians to protest in solidarity with the victims of the Zarzis tragedy and all the victims of immigration in front of the municipal theatre on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the centre of the Tunisian capital.

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