Posted on July 7, 2023

Mass Expulsions and Mistreatment of Migrants Reported in Tunisia as Tensions Spike in Port City

Bouazza Ben Bouazza and Renata Brito, Associated Press, July 6, 2023

Tensions spiked dangerously in a Tunisian port city this week after three migrants were detained in the death of a local man, and there were reports of retaliation against Black foreigners and accounts of mass expulsions and alleged assaults by security forces.

The people suspected in the slaying of a 41-year-old Tunisian were under investigation for premeditated murder, according to Faouzi Masmoudi, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the seaside city of Sfax.

Twenty-two migrants from sub-Saharan countries in Africa also were detained for questioning in connection with crimes in the area, Masmoudi said Wednesday.

Sfax, on Tunisia’s eastern coast, is a main departure point for migrants and refugees planning to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Thousands of people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have poured into the city to set out in unprecedented numbers for dangerous crossings to Italy in small boats.

After the burial Tuesday of Nizar Ben Brahim Amri, the Tunisian man who was killed, residents blocked a main road, burned tires and called on authorities to return migrants to their homelands to keep the peace.

Videos posted on social media showed crowds of local men in Sfax attempting to knock down doors and set fire to a building in what appeared to be an attempt to chase Black migrants out. Other videos showed Black people being rounded up at night and taken to police vehicles.

Tunisian security forces put some migrants in shelters to avoid vengeance attacks, while some 200 others headed to the Sfax train station to escape to Tunis, the capital, according to Radio Mosaique.


Tunisian President Kais Saied railed at those who use his country as a stepping stone to Europe. The increasingly authoritarian president set off a crisis in February with a demand for urgent measures to crack down on Black Africans, claiming they were part of a plot to erase Tunisia’s identity. Some countries airlifted their citizens back home. Other migrants tried to escape by sea to Europe.


In the first three months of 2023, Tunisia’s National Guard intercepted 13,000 migrants trying to make the journey. {snip}