Tunisia expels 400 sub-Saharan African migrants

President Kais Saied repeats claims that there is a plot to resettle them in the North African country

Sub-Saharan African migrants cook at a camp in Jebeniana, in Tunisia's Sfax province. Sfax is one of the main departure points for irregular migration to Europe. EPA
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Tunisia has expelled about 400 sub-Saharan African migrants from its eastern border, President Kais Saied told a meeting of the National Security Council.

Mr Saied repeated his claim that there was a plot to resettle these migrants in Tunisia and accused certain parties, without providing details, of receiving millions of euros and dollars to bring about the plan.

He indicated that he had personally reviewed a document proving that more than 20 million dinars ($6.4 million) had been allocated, through unofficial channels, to a single migrant centre in the province of Sfax.

“These money flows do not benefit these migrants, who are victims themselves,” Mr Saied said. “We are not the cause of their situation because they are the victims of an international system.”

Mr Saied did not specify where the expelled migrants had been sent.

Tunisia, along with its eastern neighbour Libya, is a major transit point for migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Mr Saied called on other North African countries on the Mediterranean to assume their responsibility on the issue of irregular migration.

“Tunisia will not accept to be a place of settlement for these people [migrants] nor will it accept to be a transit destination,” he said.

On Saturday, Tunisian authorities began a major clampdown on hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants, including a number of asylum seekers and refugees.

Police in Tunis arrested migrants living in tents outside the offices of the International Organisation for Migration, a UN agency, and used bulldozers to demolish the encampment.

Authorities also evicted migrants who had been living in a compound in the northern suburb of La Marsa.

Tunisian activists and rights groups accused the government of forcibly removing these migrants and leaving them near the border with Algeria.

Videos posted on Facebook showed some of these migrants, namely Sudanese asylum seekers, stranded on the motorway near the north-western province of Jendouba.

Mr Saied also discussed the issue of irregular migration with visiting Libyan Interior Minister Maj Gen Imad Trabelsi on Monday.

The Tunisian President told Maj Gen Trabelsi that the problem was “worsening day by day” and could only be solved through the co-operation of all countries concerned under a new approach, the state TAP news agency reported.

Tunisia's latest clampdown on sub-Saharan African migrants comes three weeks after a visit by a delegation of Italy's right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Mr Saied and Ms Meloni signed three agreements to strengthen Tunisia’s ability to limit migration to Europe.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 7:27 AM