Ivory Coast, Guinea to fly back citizens in Tunisia after outcry

Ivory Coast, Guinea to fly back citizens in Tunisia after outcry
West African countries are repatriating their citizens from Tunisia in fear of hate crimes following the president's comments on African migrants there.
3 min read
More than 800 Ivorians have registered to be repatriated [Getty]

The West African states of Guinea and Ivory Coast are repatriating hundreds of their citizens from Tunisia, officials said Wednesday, after Tunisian President Kais Saied triggered a storm by accusing sub-Saharan migrants of crime.

Last week, Saied had ordered security forces to take "urgent measures" against "hordes" of sub-Saharan African migrants, accusing them without evidence of causing a wave of crime and plotting to change the country's demographic make-up.

Landlords across the country, fearing they would incur heavy fines for housing people without hard-to-obtain paperwork, then started turfing out migrants.

Many Ivorians and Malians ended up camping for several nights outside their embassies during a cold snap, huddling with their worldly belongings as they waited to be repatriated.

"On Monday we were swamped, but yesterday evening we managed to organise shelter for 55 people including at least four women with young children," an embassy official told AFP.

The official said the embassy had rented an entire building comprising a dozen furnished apartments.

The diplomat also said a stream of "good-willed Tunisians" had also brought donations of blankets, preserved food and bread to the embassy.

Many of the migrants had been in Tunisia for more than five years before being suddenly ordered to leave, he said, adding "people need to be given time to organise themselves".

More than 800 Ivorians have registered to be repatriated, the official added.

A Guinean foreign ministry official also told AFP that the ruling junta had leased an aircraft to bring about 50 Guineans in Tunisia who said they wanted to return home.

The information was confirmed by a senior official at the Conakry airport.

The president's office issued a statement earlier, saying that Foreign Minister Morissanda Kouyate was heading to Tunisia aboard a government aircraft "to provide urgent support for Guineans" there.

The embassies of West African countries have been negotiating with Tunis for a waiver of fines against those who have overstayed their visas.

Given the difficulties of obtaining residency documents from Tunisia's tortuous bureaucracy, many have racked up fines of over 1,000 euros, sums few West African migrants can afford.

"We are calling on the Tunisian authorities to waive these fines for at least three months," the diplomat said.

"You can't tell people they have to leave then not allow them to do so. It's a question of decency."

According to figures from the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), drawn from official sources, around 21,000 undocumented migrants from other parts of Africa live in Tunisia, a country of about 12 million inhabitants.

That figure includes foreign university students and workers who complain they are unable to obtain the paperwork they need because of Tunisia's archaic bureaucracy.