In Sfax, the death of a Tunisian during clashes with migrants raises fears of violence
Clashes between Tunisians and African migrants erupted in the coastal city of Sfax for several days. The death of a Tunisian who was stabbed on Monday evening, a video of which was circulated on social networks, raises fears of an escalation of violence between the two parties.
A Tunisian has been killed in clashes with African migrants in the Tunisian city of Sfax, Tunisia’s second largest city. Calls for revenge were launched, raising fears on Tuesday (July 4) of an escalation in violence amid heightened tensions over illegal immigration.
The man, born in 1982, was fatally stabbed during clashes late Monday between residents and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Sfax prosecutor’s spokesman Faouzi Masmoudi told AFP.
“Three migrants suspected of being involved in this murder, who would be of Cameroonian nationality, according to preliminary information, have been arrested,” he added.
News of his death spread quickly via a video posted on social media by a member of parliament for Sfax, Tarek Mahdi, showing his body on the street and a trail of blood.
The video sparked a flood of reactions, often with racist undertones, calling for the expulsion of African migrants from Sfax.
“We will avenge his death”, launched a group of young people during the funeral of the deceased, according to a video published by the Syeb Trottoir collective, which campaigns against illegal immigration in Sfax.
Calls to stop employing or renting accommodation to irregular migrants have been posted on this local group’s page.
“The streets have turned into a battlefield”
According to images posted on social networks, clashes between migrants and residents broke out on Tuesday in several districts of Sfax.
Senior gendarmerie and national security officials traveled to Sfax, where the security presence was stepped up after the murder, according to the interior ministry.
Stone-throwing clashes had already pitted African migrants against residents of Sfax by Sunday evening, with vehicles and homes damaged.
“Tonight, for the third night in a row, the streets have turned into a battlefield, with serious injuries, Tunisians and sub-Saharan migrants alike, fires, attacks, robberies and powerless police forces! If the worst was to be feared, it is here!” Written on Monday evening on Facebook Franck Yotedje, director of the association Afrique Intelligence, which works to defend the rights of migrants.
Tensions exacerbated by Kaïs Saïed’s words
Sfax, in central-eastern Tunisia, is the starting point for a large number of illegal crossings to Italy. In the popular neighborhoods of the city where the migrants live, verbal and physical violence is frequent between the two parties.
This violence increased after a speech on February 21 by President Kaïs Saïed, who criticized illegal immigration and presented it as a demographic threat to his country.
During a visit on Tuesday to the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior in Tunis, Kaïs Saïed spoke about the situation in Sfax “after the criminal act that took place there”, according to a press release from the presidency. Tunisia “does not accept anyone who does not respect its laws to stay on its territory, nor to be a transit country (towards Europe) or a country of resettlement for nationals of certain African countries”, he said. same source.
Most migrants from sub-Saharan Africa actually come to Tunisia and then try to reach Europe by sea, landing clandestinely on the Italian coast.
Kais Saied said on Tuesday that “criminal networks” were behind illegal immigration and that their aim was to disrupt “social peace in Tunisia”.
According to Romdane Ben Amor, head of the Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), a local NGO that follows migration issues in Tunisia, the current tension in Sfax was “expected”.
The FTDES “warned of the tragic and inhumane situation of migrants aggravated by hate speech against them, which explains this violence”, he told AFP, calling for a speech of “reassurance”.