The Tunisian president has said that undocumented migration from sub-Saharan African countries is aimed at changing the demographic make-up of the country.
"The undeclared goal of the successive waves of illegal immigration is to consider Tunisia a purely African country that has no affiliation to the Arab and Islamic nations," President Kais Saied said in a meeting with the National Security Council yesterday.
حديث #قيس_سعيد قبل قليل عن المهاجرين من أفريقيا جنوب الصحراء خطير جدا
يقول: "هناك ترتيب إجرامي تمّ إعداده منذ مطلع هذا القرن لتغيير التركيبة الديمغرافية لتونس… هناك جهات تلقت أموالا طائلة بعد سنة 2011 من أجل توطين المهاجرين غير النظاميين من إفريقيا جنوب الصحراء في تونس
— Wejdene Bouabdallah (@tounsiahourra) February 21, 2023
The speech made by Kais Saied about immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa is very dangerous. He said: "There has been a criminal arrangement since the beginning of the century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia. There are parties who received huge sums of money after 2011 to settle irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia."
Tunisian human rights groups and other critics have condemned the comments as a racist campaign designed to distract citizens from the country's problems.
Disgusting statement of #Tunisia's presidency at a National Security Council meeting portraying post-2011 programs aimed at settling black African migrants in Tunisia as a conspiracy to make the country "a purely African country with no affiliation with the Arab and Islamic… https://t.co/L4AgnesrfO pic.twitter.com/4rKfzcFnDS
— Mohamed Dhia Hammami – محمد ضياء الهمامي (@MedDhiaH) February 21, 2023
Our new dictator's fascist speech aimed at Black african migrants is terrifying. With the state of the economy & lack of food this scapegoating of Black migrants will be latched onto by desperate citizens. What a shameful time to be Tunisian. I fear for Black Tunisians too 😔 https://t.co/005emdZ97W
— Kaouther (@TheKaouther) February 21, 2023
An ongoing social and economic crisis worsened in 2021 when Saied suspended the parliament and dismissed the government.
Tunisia: President must immediately stop his political 'witch hunt', insists Amnesty
Staple food products like sugar, flour and cooking oil are not available in shops in part because of Tunisia's dire state finances.
On the anniversary of the Arab Spring protests, thousands of Tunisians took to the streets and demanded that Saied step down.
But Tunisian authorities have escalated a crackdown on high profile critics and opponents of the president.
After the parliament was dissolved, the first black Tunisian MP, Jamilia Ksiksi, warned that the political turmoil would likely mean court cases looking into racial discrimination would take longer to be processed.
In August last year a new survey by BBC News Arabic found that 80 per cent of people in Tunisia believe racial discrimination is a problem in their country.
According to the survey, this is the highest number in the Middle East and North Africa region.