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Tunisia: Sub-Saharan African workers seek more protection

Petrol attendant at a petrol station in Tunis   -  
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Many African workers are very glad to find employment at this petrol station.

It sits along the main road in the heart of Tunis. There are plenty of cars and trucks stopping by to fill-up.

Customers are plenty and in times when Tunisia is facing a shortage of workers, many from sub-Saharan Africa are stepping in to fill the gap.

Kui Kadi is one such economic migrant.

He came here at the beginning of 2018.

"Job opportunities are not available to everyone, I came from Ivory Coast, almost a year ago and thank God I could find work here at the gas station," Kadi says.

Taloo Kadi also works at petrol station worker.

"Before I came here they told me that Tunisia is difficult country. But I'm very respected by the owner of the station and earn my living, life is good," she says.

Migrants are often recruited for jobs in construction, cafes and restaurants.

But as many come to Tunisia illegally, they don't benefit from employment rights and some unscrupulous employers exploit that vulnerability.

Petrol station owner Jilani Ben Rhouma says the workers just want to be treated fairly.

"It is not unusual for Tunisians not to pay what they owe to African workers," he says.

These workers are not asking for extra money but only for the work they do. If they agree with someone on a certain amount, they will not ask you to add more and do not want to be paid less than what they agreed on."

All foreigners entering Tunisia are subject to a law dating back to 1968.

Conditions of entry are very strict. Illegal migrants can be expelled and penalties are imposed on Tunisians if they harbour foreigners illegally.

It also provides a number of conditions for employment in Tunisia and obtaining temporary or permanent residence permits.

Valentin Bonnefoy, who works for the Tunisian Economic and Social Forum, says Tunisian law is not fit for purpose.

"Tunisian law does not protect sub-Saharan African workers or foreigners in general," he says.

"Tunisia must work on the enactment of a new immigration law, and it is working on it. This law gives a new image of Tunisia after the dictatorship."

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