Tunisian authorities have expelled hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants from the port city of Sfax, following a series of events that unfolded after an outburst of violence in July.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), a non governmental organization, reported the mass expulsion, highlighting the worsening plight of migrants in the North African nation.
The crackdown began on Saturday, primarily targeting individuals hailing from sub-Saharan African countries who were residing in Tunisia.
According to official sources, approximately 200 migrants who were preparing to make a clandestine boat trip towards Europe were apprehended during the operation.
Tunisia has long served as a significant gateway for migrants and asylum-seekers looking to embark on perilous sea journeys with the hope of securing a better life in European countries. However, recent developments in Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city, have cast a shadow over this trend.
Racial tensions ignited in Sfax on July 3rd following the tragic killing of a Tunisian man in an altercation involving migrants. The incident served as a catalyst for escalating tensions and led to a wave of expulsions and forced transfers of sub-Saharan Africans by Tunisian security forces, relocating them to the harsh desert regions bordering Libya and Algeria.
A controversial speech by President Kais Saied in February had also fanned the flames of xenophobia in the country, as he alleged that “hordes” of illegal migrants were responsible for rising crime rates and posed a demographic threat to Tunisia, a predominantly Arab North African nation.
The fallout from the speech saw hundreds of migrants losing their jobs and homes as they faced increased discrimination.
Reports indicate that at least 27 individuals have lost their lives while another 73 remain missing after being expelled into desolate desert areas bordering Libya in July.
The dire circumstances and uncertain fate of these migrants have raised concerns among humanitarian organizations and advocates for migrant rights.