TUNISIA, March 6 (AP) — Tunisia’s government is seeking to allay growing international concerns about a surge in discrimination against people in sub-Saharan Africa, as the European Union warned Monday against hate speech targeting people fleeing conflict and poverty.
African governments have evacuated hundreds of citizens from Tunisia in recent days after migrants, foreign students and others spoke of racist abuse on the streets and online.
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Tensions flared last month after Tunisian President Keith Saeed lashed out at immigration and lashed out at a plot to erase Tunisian identity.
Tunisia’s government on Sunday announced a series of new, albeit limited, measures for sub-Saharan Africans living in Tunisia, after Tunisia’s Western and African allies expressed concerns in recent weeks.
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These include a hotline for migrants to report any violation of their rights, medical and psychological assistance for all migrants and a new residence card for students from other African countries “to facilitate their stay on Tunisian soil”.
Another measure waives fines for sub-Saharan Africans who exceed their residence permits – if they agree to a voluntary return scheme.
The situation in Tunisia is worrying for the European Union, which is working with Tunisia and other African countries to limit immigration to Europe.
European Commission spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said on Monday: “We are closely following developments and concerns in Tunisia. We want all our partners to treat migrants with dignity. We don’t want to hear racist hate speech.”
She urged the Tunisian government to pursue “more inclusive policies” and take action to defuse tensions against migrants.
The Tunisian president’s remarks have created a climate of fear within the country’s African community. A widely circulated video circulating online shows people being evicted from their homes and belongings thrown in the street.
A Guinean mother of three described being stoned at her as she went to buy food for her family. Dark-skinned Tunisians have also been targeted, said Saadia Mosbah, president of the anti-racism association M’nemti.
Two planes brought back about 300 people from Mali and Côte d’Ivoire from Tunisia to their home country on Saturday, after about 50 Guineans were evacuated earlier this week on a government-chartered flight, Tunisian media reported. Hundreds of people flocked to their embassies, demanding to leave Tunisia.
The crackdown comes at a time when Tunisia is heading for economic collapse, high unemployment, high inflation and high debt.
Meanwhile, the president has amassed growing powers and moved to silence dissent.
Law enforcement officers continue to round up people without residence papers despite new government measures targeting migrants.
National Guard spokeswoman Houssemeddine Jbabli said 58 sub-Saharan people were detained Friday in an operation to check IDs.
They are accused of entering Tunisia illegally from Algeria.
Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine dismissed allegations that the president’s remarks were racist or hateful as “unreasonable”.
“We only apply existing laws to those who break them, as in any country,” he said.
According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, an estimated 21,000 sub-Saharan migrants live in Tunisia, many without residence status and many are believed to end up in Europe.
That’s a tiny fraction of Tunisia’s population of 12 million. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)