Activists in Tunisia are raising alarm over an increase in racist violence and hate speech against sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees who reside in the country. The increasingly inflammatory rhetoric has also been accompanied by crackdowns on migrants marked by arrests, detentions and evictions.
The outrage follows recent statements by Tunisian President Kais Saied espousing what protesters are saying is xenophobic and anti-Black racist rhetoric. President Saied claimed that the presence of migrants is part of a plot to change the country’s demographic composition. Following backlash, he made a statement denouncing racism and announcing changes to visa rules for African citizens.
While activists remain sceptical of his announcements, the rhetoric, critics say, is similar to the “great replacement theory”; a popular conspiracy theory among nationalists used to stoke populist and xenophobic support.
This comes at a time when the country’s economic, political and social stability continues to decline leading analysts to view the turn against migrants and refugees as a brazen effort to scapegoat the country’s downturn.
Anti-Black racism and anti-immigrant sentiment has long been a simmering issue in the country, and in solidarity many Tunisians are taking to the streets and social media to protest in support of migrants and share their own experiences with anti-Black racism in Tunisia.
In response, countries and international bodies alike have condemned the violence and speech. The World Bank is pausing future work with the country, the African Union has issued a statement denouncing the treatment of migrants, and several sub-Saharan countries have begun repatriation of citizens who wish to leave Tunisia.
In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at what’s driving racism and violence against Black people in Tunisia.
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