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Tunisia: World Bank concerned about sub-Saharan migrants

Sub-Saharan migrants camp outside the IOM office seeking shelter and protection from...   -  
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The World Bank has decided to suspend "until further notice" its partnership framework with Tunisia, deeming "completely unacceptable" the remarks of Tunisian President Kais Saïed who, denouncing the "hordes of illegal migrants" at the end of February, stirred up according to the financial institution violence against them.

"Public comments that stir up discrimination, attacks and racist violence are completely unacceptable" , judged the president of the institution, David Malpass, in a letter sent Sunday evening to his teams and which AFP was able to consult on Monday.

Faced with the degradation and the attacks reported, Mr. Malpass believes that the World Bank is not in a position to continue its missions on the spot, "the security and inclusion of migrants and minorities (being) part of the central values ​​of 'inclusion, respect and anti-racism' of the Bank.

"Given the situation, management has made the decision to pause ' this partnership agreement ' and remove from the schedule the review of the Board of Directors" (BOD) of the World Bank, originally scheduled for March 21 and "postponed until further notice".

Assistance programs

This decision concerns the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), which serves as a basis for monitoring by the Board of Directors of the World Bank in order to assess and support the country in its aid programs.

Concretely, the institution, which cannot launch new support programs with the country until the Board has met, has decided to suspend the holding of this meeting in Tunisia "until further notice ". according to Mr Malpass's letter.

"Funded projects remain funded and ongoing projects are maintained," however, told AFP a source close to the World Bank.

The World Bank also warns of a possible slowdown in its actions on site due to the implementation of security measures, in particular concerning its employees from sub-Saharan Africa and their families.


"Tunisia has a long tradition of openness and tolerance which is encouraged by so many people in the country," insisted David Malpass in his letter.

If the measures are taken recently by the Tunisian government "to protect and support migrants and refugees in this very difficult situation" go in "good sense", the World Bank assures that it "will carefully assess and monitor their impact".

During a press briefing on Monday, the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, expressed the "deep concerns" of the United States "concerning President Saied's comments". He called on the Tunisian government to "respect its obligations under international law by protecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants".

The United Nations General Secretariat for its part condemned "unreservedly any xenophobic and racist comment intended to fuel racial hatred", insisted, also on Monday, its spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.


On February 21, Tunisian President Kais Saïed had estimated in a speech that "urgent measures" were necessary "against the illegal immigration of nationals from sub-Saharan Africa", speaking in particular of "hordes of illegal migrants" whose arrival was of a "criminal enterprise hatched at the dawn of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia".

These comments were strongly criticized by NGOs and human rights activists. They also sowed a wind of panic among sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia, who have since reported an upsurge in attacks against them and have rushed by the dozens to their embassies to be repatriated.

According to official figures quoted by the NGO Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Tunisia, which has some 12 million inhabitants, is home to more than 21,000 nationals of sub-Saharan African countries, most of them in an irregular situation.

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