Senegal has repatriated 76 of its citizens from Tunisia and Libya, the government said Friday, the latest country to do so after a tirade by the Tunisian president about sub-Saharan migrants.
A speech by Oresudebt Kais Saied on February 21 claiming that “hordes” of illegal immigrants posed a threat to Tunisia’s security triggered a wave of violence against sub-Saharan Africans.
He ordered officials to urgently tackle irregular migration, claiming without evidence that “a criminal plot” was underway “to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup”.
Many of the estimated 21,000 sub-Saharan African migrants living in Tunisia lost their jobs and housing, others were stopped by police and some have reported physical attacks.
Hundreds of Africans turned to their embassies for assistance. The Senegalese government opened a crisis unit and a register to identify would-be returnees.
Of 172 Senegalese people officially registered in Tunisia and Libya, 76 were repatriated on Thursday on an Air Senegal flight, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published to social networks on Friday.
It neither specified how many people had come from each country, nor explained why the government had repatriated people from Libya.
Libya has been mired in a complex political crisis since the 2011 fall of Moamer Kadhafi after 42 years of rule.
Other West African countries including Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast have each repatriated citizens from Tunisia.
Unlike some of its neighbours, Senegal has been discreet about the repatriation flight.
Authorities banned a protest called for March 4 at the Tunisian embassy in the capital Dakar.
On March 10, Senegalese President Macky Sall announced on Twitter that he had met with the Tunisian president that same day.
“We discussed issues of common interest”, he said. “I appreciated the calming measures he took in the context of the current situation.”