The World Bank has said it is suspending future work with Tunisia after widespread reports of racist violence.
The violence follows a speech made by President Kais Saied in February in which he said that undocumented migration from sub-Saharan countries is a plot aimed at changing Tunisia’s demography.
Saied called on security forces to detain and deport migrants, accusing them of a wave of crime in the country.
Many sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia have been kicked out of their homes, detained and lost their jobs overnight.
World Bank President David Malpass told staff in a note that the bank was pausing Tunisia’s Country Partnership Framework and postponed a board meeting to review the new strategic engagement, reports Reuters.
“The safety and inclusion of migrants and minorities is part of our institution’s core values of inclusion, respect, and anti-racism in all shapes and forms,” Malpass said in the note.
“Public commentary that stokes discrimination, aggression, and racist violence is completely unacceptable.”
He added that the World Bank was working to ensure the safety of its staff in Tunisia through extra security measures.
The Tunisian president has been accused of distracting the country from an ongoing economic crisis which has seen staple food products disappear from the shelves.
In July 2021 Saied suspended parliament, dissolved the government and pushed through a constitution which favoured his rule. Tunisians have protested the president’s take over, his racist comments and called for the fall of the coup.
Demonstrators have also taken to the streets to demand the release of critics of Saied who have been arrested in an ongoing crackdown. Two judges, the head of an independent media outlet and a prominent businessman are among the figures in jail.