Questions Grow About Tunisian Government Response to Yet Another Migrant Boat Tragedy

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The latest migrant tragedy off the Tunisian coast, in which at least 14 people were killed during the first week of March, has led to further scrutiny of the country’s treatment of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the people who drowned on the nights of March 7 and 8 were from sub-Saharan African countries and were trying to get to Italy. Tunisian officials claimed they were able to rescue 54 people.

The situation of migrants from the sub-Saharan region has worsened after Tunisian President Kais Saied on February 21 “denounced” the influx of undocumented immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa adding that this move was aimed at changing Tunisia’s demography. “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 said.

Workers’ Party of Tunisia and the African Union have criticized Saied’s remarks as being racist, with the party demanding an apology from the president. While Saied is now claiming that Tunisia “was proud to be an African country,” the woes of migrants continue.

Migrants living in Tunisia have been heavily targeted by authorities. Many have also lost their jobs and were forced to return to their homelands. However, a section of them, in a bid to escape their dire economic and political conditions, have tried to migrate to Europe.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Tunisians Mobilize Against Political Persecution and Government Failure to Address Economic Concerns

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Tunisians took to the streets by the thousands on March 4 and 5 to denounce President Kais Saied’s government for silencing the opposition with threats of arrest and intimidation and to protest against the administration’s failure to address basic economic concerns plaguing the people of the country.

Protesters raised issues such as government restrictions on unions, the rising cost of living in Tunisia, and the government’s move to reduce subsidies on essential commodities like food and energy.

The protests on March 4 were organized by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) and the Tunisian Workers’ Party, among others. The protest on that day, which “appears to be the biggest” against Saied’s government so far, started from Tunis’s Mohamed Ali Square and ended at Habib Bourguiba Avenue.

More than a dozen activists, journalists, and judges have been arrested since February by the police in Tunisia. Some have been charged with “conspiracy against state security” and are being tried in military courts. The opposition said that this action by the government amounted to political persecution.

Those arrested so far include Issam Chebbi, head of the opposition Republican Party, two leading opposition members, Noureddine Boutar, a senior journalist, and Anis Kaabi, a senior union leader.

Addressing the protesters, secretary-general of the UGTT Noureddine Taboubi asserted that “the workers are united, and we have chosen the path of struggle; struggle does not come cheap.” He said that UGTT was opposed to the persecution of political figures and the “intimidation of their families,” and was committed to the protection of freedoms in the country.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service