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African foreign students in Tunisia demand measures against racism

Sub-Saharan foreign students in Tunisia demand change of government policy   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Foreign students in Tunisia demand action from the government after a spate of racist attacks and comments by President Kais Saied about illegal migrants.

The organisation that represents Sub-Saharan students denounced over 400 arrests.

"The numbers are quite fluctuating. There are 400 arrests. There are more than 40 to 50 students who remained in detention in police stations during the last two or three weeks, and therefore went directly to prison. Fortunately, most of them have been released", said Christian Kwongang, president of AESAT, an association representing sub-Saharan African students in Tunisia.

At least 100 students made emergency repatriations, mostly to Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Niger, according to the representative.

"During our exchanges with the Ministry of Higher Education, we made them understand that if you want to keep these students, and if you want to show the African people that Tunisia is a safe country, you must put in place more concrete and more secure policies. Otherwise, we are afraid that in the years to come, there will be almost no more [African, Ed.] students in Tunisia", reassured the foreign student representative. 

Sub-Saharan African students make up the "overwhelming majority" of international students in the private education sector and a "significant proportion" at public institutions, according to this Ministry of Education representative.

"The Ministry [of Higher Education, Ed.] first wanted to send a message to reassure [migrants, Ed.] and review the new and recurring demands of international students. The government worked on the issues of residence conditions and permits. I would like to remind you that in Tunisia, most international students enter without visas. So the process is rather quick and simple", said Malek Kochlef, director of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Higher Education

International student numbers in Tunisia, mostly from other African countries, grew to 9,000 last year, a five-fold increase since 2011.

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