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Tunisia President racist speech cost him World Bank partnership

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In his comments to the National Security Council published online by the president’s office on Tuesday, Tunisia President Saied called for “urgent measures” to stop the arrival of “groups of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa”, who he says bring ” violence, crime and unacceptable acts.”. “.

The immigrants, he said, are part of a “criminal conspiracy” to change Tunisia’s population structure.

“The undeclared purpose of the successive waves of illegal immigration is to see Tunisia as an African country that has no relations with Arab and Islamic countries,” he said.

Tunisia
A photo file of President Saeid

Racism and conspiracy theories

The statements caused an uproar, with many accusing the president of racism and raising right-wing conspiracy theories.

“It’s a racist attitude like the European campaigns,” said Ramadan Ben Amor, spokesman for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES). “The presidential campaign aims to create an imaginary enemy for Tunisians to distract them from their fundamental problems.

Tunisia is facing a serious economic crisis, with increasing debt, inflation and shortages of essential goods.

Saied, who has taken almost full power since parliament closed in July 2021, blamed the shortage on anonymous “traffickers”.

European pressure on Tunisia

Ben Amor said Saied’s comments on migrants showed he had “clearly and fully accepted the pressure from the Italian authorities to stop the flow of migrants” to Europe.

Tunisia is located less than 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa and is the main destination for migrants who want to cross the Mediterranean sea to Europe.

Last week, 23 human rights organizations said European migration policies are pushing Tunisia to take a key role in monitoring migrant routes and blocking migrant boats in the central Mediterranean region.

They warned that the government has begun to take strict measures against immigrants and turn a blind eye to racist hate speech directed at African immigrants.

The agencies, including FTDES, said nearly 300 migrants have been detained, often after simple identity checks or after attending family support sessions.

Withdrawal by the World Bank

The World Bank effectively suspended new loans to cash-strapped Tunisia after President Kais Saied raised accusations of racism and inflammatory comments against sub-Saharan African migrants.

Tunisia is stuck in a dire economic crisis that has seen inflation hit 10.4% and unemployment hit 15.2%, according to the latest official figures.

The question now is how Tunisia will finance its public spending and its reform plans?

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