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

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.

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Migrants heading towards Italy are intercepted by Tunisian authorities off the coast of Sfax, Tunisia, on Oct. 4. [Photographer: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]

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

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