For African migrants in Tunisia, the choice is between the hot oil of the frying pan or the fire itself as many who chose to leave on boats are perishing in great numbers. For those who stay, their options are limited.
Stranded migrants from sub-Saharan Africa rioted on April 11th in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, assaulting passers-by and smashing car windows, in response to the Tunisian police dispersal of their sit-in.
Earlier, the police broke up months-long sit-in organised by African migrants in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in El-Bahira area in Tunis, in protests of plans to resettle them in Tunisia, and to demand the UNHCR to resettle them in other countries.
The protesters entered into skirmishes with the security forces, and assaulted passers-by with weapons and smashed car windows, before the police took control of the situation and arrested a number of the attackers.
For his part, a former MP, Majdi Al-Karbaei, said the Tunisian security forces resorted to violence and tear gas against immigrants to dismantle the sit-in.
“I am not surprised that the UNHCR had called the security forces to disperse the sit-ins, after the statement of its Envoy, Vincent Cochetel, in which he called to punish mothers in the Zarzis disaster because they send their children to death,” he added.
Relations between Tunisia and sub-Saharan African countries have been tense, after President Kais Saied remarks in which he claimed there was a “criminal arrangement” to settle African immigrants in his country, with the aim of changing its demographic composition as an “Arab and Islamic country,” which sparked a wave of condemnation at the regional and international levels.