A number of African nations, including Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, and Gabon, are facilitating the repatriation of their citizens from Tunisia in response to controversial comments made by the country’s President last month regarding illegal immigration into the North African state. In a National Security Council meeting on February 21, President Kais Saied claimed that alleged illegal border crossings from sub-Saharan Africa into Tunisia constitute a “criminal enterprise hatched at the beginning of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia," CNN reported.
According to Saied, the ongoing influx of illegal migrants is intended to transform Tunisia into “merely an African country with no connection to the Arab and Muslim worlds,” and the culprits are involved in human trafficking. The African Union has condemned the Tunisian government's recent comments on illegal immigration as "racial and shocking." The AU released a statement on February 24 calling on all countries, especially African Union member states, to uphold their obligations under international law and relevant AU agreements to treat all migrants with dignity, regardless of their country of origin, and to prioritize their safety and human rights.
In response to the situation, Ivory Coast has announced that 145 of its citizens will be repatriated on Saturday, according to a report by the state-run Ivorian Press Agency on Friday. Mali has also joined other African countries in announcing the voluntary repatriation of its citizens from Tunisia, according to the state newspaper L’Essour. The Gabonese embassy in Tunisia has offered to repatriate its citizens as well, citing growing concerns for the safety of sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia. The embassy has announced a Sunday deadline for those wishing to register for voluntary repatriation.
Tunisia has a long history of Islamic influence. Islam was introduced to the region in the 7th century, and has played an important role in shaping the country's identity and culture. Tunisia has also been home to a number of influential Islamic scholars and thinkers throughout its history. However, in the 20th century, Tunisia underwent a period of secularisation under the leadership of President Habib Bourguiba, who implemented a range of policies aimed at modernising the country and reducing the influence of religion on politics and society.
In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of Islamic politics in Tunisia. The moderate Islamist party Ennahda won a plurality of seats in the country's first democratic elections in 2011, and played a key role in the formation of a coalition government. At the same time, there has also been a rise of more extreme forms of Islamism in Tunisia. The Salafist movement, which advocates for a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has gained popularity in recent years, and has been associated with a number of violent incidents. The Islamisation of Tunisia has been a contentious issue, with some Tunisians viewing it as a threat to the country's secular and democratic traditions. Others, however, see it as a natural part of the country's cultural and historical heritage.