The Unwanted

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Tunisian authorities expelled hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants from the port city of Sfax this week, part of a government crackdown on illegal migration amid racial tensions in the North African country, Agence France-Presse reported.

Non-governmental organizations said security forces rounded up around 500 migrants and “dispersed in small groups towards rural areas and other towns.”

The expulsions have been taking place since Saturday, with Tunisian officials saying they arrested about 200 migrants “who were preparing to make the clandestine boat trip” toward Europe.

Many of the migrants had been thrown out of their homes in the wake of unrest in July. Those clashes started after a Tunisian man died following a violent altercation with migrants.

Tunisia is a major gateway for migrants and asylum-seekers attempting dangerous sea voyages to Europe.

Racial tensions have also flared up in the country after Tunisian President Kais Saied made a provocative speech earlier this year against the influx of sub-Saharan illegal migrants. Kais said “hordes” of illegal migrants were causing crime and posing a demographic threat to the country.

Humanitarian groups allege that authorities have expelled or forcibly transferred more than 2,000 sub-Saharan Africans to the desert regions bordering Algeria and Libya.

Meanwhile, the European Union and Tunisia struck a deal in July to curb migration flows to the European continent, an agreement that has faced criticism from the bloc’s lawmakers, national governments and NGOs.

Last week, Tunisia denied entry to a group of European Parliament lawmakers who were planning an official visit to the country to speak with opposition groups and assess the political and economic situation there, Politico noted.

The Tunisian government did not provide a clear reason for this decision, but parliamentary officials suggested the incident was linked to EU legislators expressing criticism of Tunisia’s democratic backsliding in a press conference held that month.

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