The West African nations of Guinea and Ivory Coast are repatriating citizens who want to leave Tunisia after the country’s increasingly authoritarian leader called for a crackdown on migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
Morissanda Kouyate, Guinea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad, was aboard the chartered flight that brought back 49 Guineans to Conakry Wednesday night, the government said. Another 81 are awaiting future flights, he added.
“Our compatriots in Tunisia, we found that some of them had lost hope,” Kouyate said. “And it was with a heavy heart that I was able to meet with them because the conditions were difficult.”
Mamaaissata Sacko, a mother of three children, said her family had been attacked and lived in fear in the North African nation.
“We didn’t go out to get food. As soon as you go out, they hit you with rocks. They say: ‘Leave. Go home — Tunisia is for Tunisians.’ My children and I spent two days without eating,” she said upon her return to Guinea late Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast’s government said about 500 Ivorians have expressed interest in repatriation flights that will be operated by the national carrier Air Cote d’Ivoire.
Tunisia has long been a destination for economic migrants from West Africa because of the French language many share and North Africa’s proximity to Europe. An estimated 21,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africs were living in Tunisia in 2021, most of whom entered from Algeria and Libya.
Last month Tunisian President Kais Saied said that “urgent measures” were needed to address the entry of irregular immigrants from sub-Saharan countries, “with their lot of violence, crimes and unacceptable practices.”
He ordered a rapid response via “diplomatic, security, military fronts” and strict application of the law on foreigners.