Tunisian Terror and “Team Europe”, Daily Brief July 19, 2023

Daily Brief, July 19 2023.


Last week in this newsletter, we highlighted how Tunisian security forces rounded up Black African migrants and asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women, and abandoned them in the desert. And we looked at how the EU was deepening its anti-migrant cooperation with Tunisia at the same time.

New research today reveals disturbing details of both Tunisian abuses and EU support.

It documents crimes by Tunisian security forces – that is, police, military, national guard, and coast guard – against Black Africans including unlawful arrests, detention, beatings, and torture. The new report also highlights collective expulsions, dangerous actions at sea, forced evictions, and theft of money and belongings.

Security forces also ignore crimes and abuses by Tunisian civilians against Black Africans, including robbery and assault, as well as groundless evictions from homes.

This spreading terror has been fueled by Tunisian authorities’ openly racist attitudes toward Black Africans, most notably an ugly speech by President Kais Saied in February.

In it, he linked African migrants to crime and spoke of a “conspiracy” to change Tunisia’s demographics. Saied’s racist speech was followed by a surge in hate speech, discrimination, and attacks against Black Africans.

Since Saied’s speech and the spread of repression and abuses, more than a dozen high-level European officials have made formal visits to the country. The most high-profile have been two joint visits in recent weeks by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The trio bill this as “Team Europe” and have met with Saied to offer him their support both in word and in deed. And by “deed,” I mean cash.

In June, they announced Brussels would hand the Tunisian government 100 million euros “for border management. The “Team” made a second visit a few days ago to shore up the deal.

If you have some awareness of history, you’ll realize this all sounds a lot like the dirty deals European countries used to make with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. He also used ugly language against Black Africans, especially when he wanted to pluck the racist string on Europe’s political violin: “Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in,” he once said.

Politicians today try to wrap it up in the language of “border externalization” or “outsourcing,” but the message from Europe’s authoritarian partners is as simple as ever: pay me to deal with these unwanted Black people for you.

It was disgusting then, and it’s disgusting now.