Tunisian protesters demand eviction of migrant encampment

Tunisian protesters demand eviction of migrant encampment
Tunisian protesters demand eviction of migrant encampment

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A bulldozer clears debris outside the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) headquarters in Tunis on May 3, 2024 after the local authorities removed an encampment that was erected there by migrants in a forced evacuation. ― AFP pic

TUNIS, May 4 ― Hundreds of Tunisians rallied today in the town of El Amra to protest makeshift camps for migrants primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, an AFP correspondent said.

The demonstration in the small town in central Tunisia follows recent crackdowns by authorities on similar encampments in the capital Tunis and other areas, often after complaints from local residents.

In El Amra, protesters called for the “departure” of migrants and the “quick” eviction of the thousands estimated to be staying there, the correspondent said.

Lawmaker Tarek Mahdi said that the “immediate solution” should be to get migrants to “leave urban areas and cities”.

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The situation has become “unacceptable” and “the authorities must find a solution”, said Mahdi, who represents El Amra in parliament.

He added that other countries should help Tunisia to deal with a “very significant flow” of migrants.

The town is located about 40 kilometres north of Sfax, a key departure point for Europe-bound sea journeys from where migrants had been forcibly removed late last year.

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Many migrants have fled to towns like El Amra, setting up encampments before they can make the perilous Mediterranean crossing, as Tunisian authorities and the European Union have ramped up efforts to curb irregular migration.

A surge of anti-migrant violence last year, following remarks by President Kais Saied who painted “illegal” foreigners as a demographic threat, has also pushed many out of main cities and into smaller towns.

Migrants attempting the sea crossing in search of a better life in Europe often aim to reach Italy, whose Lampedusa island lies some 150 kilometres away from Sfax, Tunisia’s second city.

In recent weeks, authorities raided several encampments, tearing down tents and expelling migrants.

The non-governmental Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights said that authorities in Tunis on Friday cleared encampments and expelled hundreds of asylum seekers, migrants and refugees, sending them in buses to a western area near the Algerian border.

In a statement, the interior ministry said “security measures” had been taken to “deal with attacks on public and private property”.

Last month, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited Tunisia for a fourth time in less than a year to sign deals aiming to curb migration.

A day before her visit, Saied said that Tunisia must not become “a country of transit or settlement” for the tens of thousands of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe every year. ― AFP

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