Tunisia arrests Anti-Discrimination Activist over money laundering probe

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An anti-discrimination activist in Tunisia, Saadia Mosbah, was arrested this week as part of a money laundering investigation. Mosbah, who is Black, heads the Mnemty association and was taken into custody while her home was searched.

According to Bassem Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Mosbah’s arrest followed her social media post condemning racism she encountered for her advocacy work, particularly accusations of aiding sub-Saharan African migrants.

This arrest underscores the worsening conditions faced by migrants and their advocates in Tunisia.

It comes amidst heightened efforts by authorities to monitor the shoreline, where many migrants set sail in hopes of reaching Europe.

In a national security council meeting on irregular migration, Tunisian President Kais Saied said Tuesday that associations that receive substantial foreign funds were “traitors and agents” and shouldn’t supplant the state’s role in managing migration and fighting human trafficking.

Fewer migrants have made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea this year due to weather and beefed-up border security.

But human rights groups caution that efforts to curb crossings haven’t protected the tens of thousands of migrants stuck in Tunisia.

More than 80 migrants were arrested in Tunis last week after clashes with law enforcement as they cleared encampments in the capital that were “disturbing the peace,” according to Tunisia’s Radio Mosaique.

Hundreds of migrants had camped near the headquarters of the U.N. refugee agency and International Organization for Migration, often demanding the agencies repatriate them outside of Tunisia.

Law enforcement used heavy machinery to raze their tents and then bused them outside of the city to “an unknown destination,” said Romdhane Ben Amor, a spokesman for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

“Tunisia is deepening the crisis and promoting the idea that there is no solution,” Ben Amor said.

244 migrants, mostly from outside Tunisia, have either died or disappeared along the country’s Mediterranean coast this year, with 24 bodies discovered just last week, according to a report by the NGO.

The report, released Monday and based on government data, highlights a decrease in the number of undocumented migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Tunisian authorities have reported an uptick in interceptions, affecting both Tunisian migrants and those passing through the country end route to Europe.

In April alone, authorities thwarted 209 migration attempts, preventing over 8,200 migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, from reaching Italy.

The Tunisian Coast Guard has stopped over 21,000 migrants from reaching Italy so far this year.

European leaders, including Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, are focused on managing migration to prevent chaos along Italian shores.

Despite efforts to curb human trafficking and enhance border control, thousands of migrants continue to journey from Tunisia to Italian islands like Lampedusa.

The European Union aims to limit migration through policies like development assistance and closer ties with neighbouring governments.

However, Tunisia’s president has vowed not to let his country become Europe’s “border guard.”

Figures show a significant decrease in migrants reaching Italy in 2024 compared to last year, with less than one-third making the journey this year according to Italy’s Interior Ministry.

 

Africanews/Hauwa M.

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