Tunisia is experiencing a surge in racist attacks following a controversial speech by President Kais Saied.
On February 21, President Kais Saied, in a hardline speech targeting illegal immigration, called for “urgent measures” against “hordes of illegal immigrants” coming from sub-Saharan Africa, whom he blamed for bringing “violence, crimes, and unacceptable deeds” to Tunisia.
Echoing the great replacement theory popular among some right-wing groups in Europe and the US, he said illegal immigration was the result of a “criminal plan to change the demographic composition of Tunisia.”
“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,” he added.
Saied’s speech was condemned by the African Union, NGOs, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The latter criticised his remarks as “xenophobic, offensive, and humiliating for the community of sub-Saharan migrants.”
The attacks, which have targeted black Tunisians and migrant workers, have ranged from verbal abuse to physical violence and have been reported in cities and towns across the country.
“There is a growing sense of frustration and anger among some Tunisians, who see black people and migrant workers as a threat to their livelihoods,” said Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch in Tunisia. “This is fueling a rise in racist attacks and discrimination, which is deeply concerning.”
The surge in racist attacks in Tunisia has been described as a worrying trend and one that could have wider implications for the country’s stability and social cohesion. Human rights groups and anti-racism campaigners are calling on the government to take urgent action to tackle the problem before it spirals out of control.