World Bank Freezes Partnership with Tunisia after President’s Racist Remarks Spark Violence
The World Bank has announced a freeze on its partnership with Tunisia in response to the country’s president, Kais Saied’s remarks that have triggered violence for racial reasons. Hundreds of migrants have returned to their countries from Tunisia due to the violence unleashed since the president’s statements. Last month, Saied ordered officials to take “urgent measures” to tackle irregular migration, claiming, without evidence, that “a criminal plot” was being carried out to change the demographic makeup of Tunisia.
The World Bank president, David Malpass, said in a note that “Public comments that encourage racist discrimination, assault, and violence are completely unacceptable.” He added, however, that the measures announced by the Tunisian government to protect and support migrants and refugees are a “positive step” and the bank will assess their impact.
The African Union expressed “deep shock and concern” over Saied’s comments, and governments in sub-Saharan Africa have rushed to repatriate hundreds of frightened citizens who flocked to their embassies for help. According to human rights groups, violence against African migrants, including stabbings, has increased since the president’s speech on February 21.
There are around 21,000 undocumented migrants from other parts of Africa in Tunisia, where 12 million people live. Many African migrants lost their jobs and homes overnight, and the embassies of the Ivory Coast and Mali provided emergency accommodation to dozens of nationals evicted from their homes, including young children. Citizens of African countries without diplomatic representation in Tunisia have set up improvised camps outside the Tunis offices of the International Organization for Migration. The World Bank will apply additional security measures for its staff on the ground.