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Tunisian president denies racism accusation after migrant crackdown

Tunisian President Kais Saied meeting President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco at the Carthage Palace in Tunis, on Mar. 8, 2023.   -  
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Tunisia’s president hosted Wednesday (Mar. 8) his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau.

The visit to Tunis of the Ecowas chairman came amid racist attacks targetting sub-Saharan migrants in the north African nation.

During a national security council last month, president Kaies Saied linked undocumented immigrants to violence and crimes.

From the Carthage palace, he denied racism insisting on his will to uphold the law.

"There is the Tunisian state, the sovereign Tunisian legality concerning the status of foreigners, even though they are our brothers; they may not have Tunisian nationality, but they are our brothers. I believe that any country wouldn't accept parallel jurisdictions to the state's jurisdictions."

Rights groups have  reported a spike in vigilante violence including stabbings of black Africans, since the President's initial comments while migrants say they have been thrown out of their dwellings en masse and handed over to "mob justice".

Students and economic migrants from countries such as Guinea, Mali and Ivory Coast fleeing Tunisia were repatriated in recent days.

Earlier this week, Tunisian authorities announced measures to inquotes "improve conditions of foreigners' in Tunisia and ease procedures" for those seeking to put things right".

President Cissoko Emballo gave credence to the thesis of a misinterpretation of Saied speech.

"I wouldn't believe that you, the president of Tunisia, the country of Bourguiba, could be xenophobic or racist. You yourself are African.

- Kais Saied: I am indeed, and a proud African."

The African Union issued on Feb. 25 a statement urging all member states to "treat all migrants with dignity wherever they come from" and "refrain from racialized hate speech that could bring people to harm."

Tunisia's Foreign ministry rejected the statement, saying it contains "baseless terms & accusations" and was built on "a misunderstanding of positions of the Tunisian authorities."

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