Tunisian killed in clashes with migrants after days of tension in coastal city

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) – A Tunisian man was killed in clashes between residents and sub-Saharan African migrants in the southern city of Sfax, a judicial official said on Tuesday, following days of violent incidents between locals and migrants.

Sfax, Tunisia’s economic capital, is crowded with thousands of African migrants aiming to set off to Europe on boats from local coastal areas in an exodus marking an unprecedented migration crisis for the north African country.

Faouzi Masmoudi, a spokesperson for the Sfax court, said police had arrested three Sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being responsible for the killing of the Tunisian man on Monday.

The killing followed nights of violent clashes in Sfax between residents and migrants, he added. During the past two nights, the police fired tear gas to break up the clashes.

There has been a surge in migration across the Mediterranean from Tunisia this year after a crackdown by Tunis on migrants from sub-Saharan Africa living in the country illegally and reports of racist attacks amid an economic downturn.

Sfax residents complain about riots and disorderly behaviour by migrants, while the migrants say they are subjected to racist harassment by some residents.

Last month, hundreds of Sfax residents protested against the presence of thousands of migrants and asked authorities to deport them, saying Sfax must not become a city of refugees.

In past months hundreds of Africans have been lost and died in boat sinkings off the Sfax coast, while bodies of migrants have piled up in hospital mortuaries after washing up on beaches.

Tunisia is under pressure from Europe to stop the huge numbers departing from its coasts. European countries have pledged financial support, but Tunisian President Kais Saied said that Tunisia will not be a border guard and that it will not accept the settlement of immigrants in the country.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, Editing by William Maclean)