Tunisian stabbed to death in clash with African migrants

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Youths in Tunisia called for vengeance on Tuesday at the funeral of a man stabbed to death during a scuffle between residents and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Three African migrants were arrested as suspects in the stabbing death of the local man in Tunisia’s coastal city of Sfax, a court spokesman said.

The North African country’s second-largest city is a departure point for many migrants hoping to reach Italy, and tensions have been rising in Sfax for months.

Police had fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse residents and migrants throwing stones at each other.

Faouzi Masmoudi, spokesman for the Sfax prosecutor, said the victim, aged in his early 40s, was fatally stabbed late Monday during a scuffle between Sfax residents and migrants.

He said three suspects, from Cameroon according to initial information, had been arrested.

Locals in Sfax regularly protest against the presence of the migrants and call for them to leave.

News of the man’s death spread quickly after Tarek Mahdi, a member of parliament for Sfax, posted a video on social media showing a body lying in the street and a trail of blood.

Reaction to the post, some with racist overtones, included calls for African migrants to be expelled from Sfax.

“We are going to avenge his death!” a group of young people chanted at the victim’s funeral on Tuesday, according to video footage published by a group which campaigns against illegal immigration in Sfax.

Clashes between migrants and residents were reported in several districts of the city on Tuesday.

– Security boosted –

The interior ministry said the police and security presence in Sfax was bolstered after Monday’s killing.

Racial tensions in Tunisia have led to deadly violence before. In late May, police arrested three citizens on suspicion of stabbing to death a migrant from Benin.

Tunisia has seen a rise in racially motivated attacks on migrants and foreign students following President Kais Saied’s comments in February accusing “hordes” of illegal migrants of bringing violence, crime and “unacceptable practices”.

He also spoke of a “criminal plot” to change the country’s demographic make-up.

On Tuesday, Saied visited the interior ministry in the capital.

A presidency statement said he reiterated that Tunisia “does not accept that anyone who does not respect its laws stays on its territory, or uses it as a transit country or to resettle nationals of certain African countries”.

With a population of 12 million, Tunisia hosts an estimated 21,000 migrants from other parts of Africa, representing 0.2 percent of the population.

While some migrants come to Tunisia to study, many use the country as a springboard for attempts to reach Europe by sea, usually to the Italian island of Lampedusa about 130 kilometres (80 miles) away.

Tunisians themselves have joined the exodus in a bid to flee the economic crisis in their country, which is highly indebted and in talks for a bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Europe has offered funding to help assist Tunisia’s efforts against illegal migration and boost the economy.

Saied has repeatedly rejected what he terms the “diktats” of the Washington-based IMF.

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