Special Report: The Deepening Troubles for Refugees in Tunisia and the African Union’s Silence


A distressing video was shared on May 10th by an X (formerly Twitter) account named “Refugees in Libya NGO”, depicting the manhunt and expulsion of individuals of Sub-Saharan African descent, referred to as “Black” Africans. Over the past two weeks, there has been a systematic roundup of dark-skinned individuals, including those from Tunisia, who are being forcibly deported to the eastern border areas.

Women, men and children are caught and deported without any of their possessions, documents, savings and other materials they have worked for and accumulated over the years.

Most of those arrested during the house to house raids are legally entitled to stay in Tunisia, they are students, workers and refugees.” The account said.

“The African Union is silent while the so—called democratic European countries with their values for human rights are the very ones supporting and financing Kaïs Saeid to act as the border guard of the Fortress Europe. This must STOP” The account added.

The post garnered 3.5M views which immediately attracted sympathy for the refugees and criticism for various international bodies that are supposed to take care of refugees. “The violent anti-blackness in the Arab world needs to become a major talking point in political discourse. I hate how so many people are willing to ignore it in the hopes of withholding their delusional “POC” ideal. People are dying!!” X user Vuyiswa said.  “cc. African “truth accounts” on Twitter. Tunisia is committing pogroms on blacks. Will you cover this or continue talking about American segregation in the 1950s?” Christopher Haslett quipped.

The post also happened to attract white supremacist accounts who saw it fit to celebrate the misfortune of “Blacks” for reasons best known to them. Steve Laws, a failed politician and former “migrant hunter” activist from Kent, UK took the opportunity to decry how “Tunisians are finally doing it” which in this case is deportations. Klaus Arminius, who goes by “Independent Reporter Covering Stories The Media Doesn’t Show” byline but is a regular race baiter and rabble-rouser said “Tunisia is expelling millions of black immigrants, launching house to house manhunt.

Tunisia’s President accused the UN of trying to change the nation’s Berber-Arab demographic with black Africans. If Tunisia can deport millions of immigrants, why can’t the West? The difference is will power. Tunisian politicians want them gone; Western politicians want them to stay. NGOs and pro-open border groups are urging #EU countries to offer ‘free passage’ to sub-Saharan migrants expelled from Tunisia.”

The coverage and other earlier incidents received limited coverage but an earlier pogrom was reported by The New Humanitarian paper which decried the hostility and ill-treatment of the refugees. The pogroms are part of a concerted effort led by Tunisia’s president Kais Saied. Mr Saied continued his assertion that there was a plot to resettle these migrants in Tunisia, accusing some groups, without offering details, of obtaining millions of euros and dollars to carry out the plan.

He stated that he had read a document confirming that more than 20 million dinars ($6.4 million) had been allocated through unauthorized means to a single migrant center in the province of Sfax.

Ironically, Mr. Saied and his government received 105 million Euros from the EU for “border management”. The EU deal with Tunisia was harshly criticized by human rights observers and the EU was accused of “bankrolling dictators”. MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) also denounced the deal.

The Human Rights Foundation in a May 15th statement, condemned Saied’s “aggressive crackdown on dissidents speaking against the deportation and arrest of migrants and asylum seekers”.

Amnesty International had earlier decried Mr Saied statements by saying “President Saied must retract his comments and order investigations to clearly signal that anti-Black racist violence will not be tolerated. The president must stop finding scapegoats for Tunisia’s economic and political woes. The community of Black African migrants in Tunisia is now gripped by fear of assault or being arbitrarily arrested and summarily deported”.

The African Union has been woefully silent on the horrible treatment of migrants in Tunisia. No official statement has been issued so far and efforts by Kenya Insights to reach Ebba Kalondo, who is the “Spokesperson to the Chairperson” yielded no fruits as our emails were not answered by the time of publishing this piece.

We also tried to reach Esther Tankou Azaa Yambou who is the head of the Media and Information Division but our emails also went unanswered. Emails to the Directorate of Information and Communication were also un-replied by the time of publishing this piece.

A brief perusal of the social media pages of the African Union indicated no activity or concern about the situation in Tunisia. Suspension of Tunisia from the AU for its grave violation of human rights is suspiciously missing. Ironically. The African Union was quick to issue a statement about Israel’s pending military operation in Rafah. Ebba Kalondo was also particularly harsh on the Israeli delegation. “Have no clue, but I hope they know better than to attempt the thuggish behavior of their officials experienced at our last summit.” she is quoted as having said in reference to the Israeli accreditation saga in Addis Ababa.

Seeking refugee and asylum is a human right enshrined under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Tunisia is a party to both. Failure to implement the Convention is an indictment on the Tunisian government and non-state bodies like the African Union. We hope for the best.


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