Tunisia detains a prominent activist for migrants' rights

Tunisia detains a prominent activist for migrants' rights
Tunisia has been facing a major migrant crisis and President Saied has taken a hard line against charities helping refugees
2 min read
Earlier in May Tunisian authorities expelled hundreds of migrants and refugees from a makeshift camp in the capital city [Getty/archive]

Tunisia's public prosecutor on Tuesday detained Saadia Mosbah, a prominent activist and head of a nongovernmental group that defends the rights of migrants, human rights groups said, hours after President Kais Saied accused some groups that defend Sub-Saharan migrants of treason.

Tunisia has been grappling with a severe migration crisis due to an influx of Sub-Saharan Africans seeking to migrate to Europe in boats.

Local media reported that the police began investigating Mosbah, whose group combats racism and defends migrants' rights, on suspicion of financial crimes.

Residents of the southern town of El Amra demonstrated in favour of deporting migrants last weekend, saying the situation had become unbearable.

Saied said during a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday that the migrant situation raised questions about who was really behind it.

"This situation cannot continue and Tunisia will not be a land for the settlement of migrants," he said.

He added that many officials who run civil society groups defending migrants' rights were "traitors" who receive funds from abroad.

Live Story

Local media said that following Saied's speech, the judiciary began investigating some groups helping migrants in a move critics say aims to silence them.

Last year, Saied said that the arrival thousands of illegal migrants from Sub-Saharan African countries was a "conspiracy to change the country's demographic make up," prompting the African Union to condemn what it called Tunisia’s "hate speech" against migrants.

Tunisia has replaced Libya as the region’s main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe.