African Union criticises Tunisia over 'racialised hate speech' against migrants

China-Arab summit in Riyadh
Tunisia's President Kais Saied. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

TUNIS, Feb 25 - The African Union (AU) has criticised Tunisia and urged it to avoid "racialised hate speech" after President Kais Saied ordered the expulsion of undocumented migrants and said immigration was a plot aimed at changing his country's demographic make-up .

Tunisia's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it was surprised by the AU statement issued late on Friday, and rejected what it called "baseless accusations" that it said misunderstood the government's position.

The AU voiced what it said was "deep shock and concern at the form and substance of the statement" issued by Tunisian authorities and reminded Tunisia of its obligation within the 55-member state AU to treat migrants with dignity.

Saied this week ordered security forces to stop all illegal migration and expel all undocumented migrants, prompting a campaign of arrests that caused widespread fear among sub-Saharan Africans as well as Black Tunisians.

Announcing the measures, he said increased undocumented immigration from sub-Saharan Africa was a conspiracy aimed at changing Tunisia's demographic make-up and stopping it from being an Arab and Muslim country.

His comments were praised by the French far-right politician Eric Zemmour.

In response to criticism from rights groups that his remarks were racist, Saied said he was not racist and that migrants living in Tunisia legally had nothing to fear.

Rights groups are holding a demonstration on Saturday to protest against Saied's comments and the clampdown on migrants.

Reporting by Angus McDowall Editing by Helen Popper

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