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Tunisia tennis star urges ‘dignity’ amid crackdown on immigrants

Ons Jabeur also shares a photo of a 1961 Tunisian stamp in honor of Africa Day on Twitter.

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur has spoken out against discrimination, a week after President Kais Saied said undocumented immigration from sub-Saharan countries was intended to change the country’s demographics.

Anti-immigration measures announced by Saied have led to mass evictions and created panic among sub-Saharan populations. Hundreds of Tunisians have taken to the streets to denounce his “racist remarks and hate speech” against refugees and to express solidarity with undocumented immigrants.

“Today is #ZeroDiscriminationDay. As a proud Tunisian, Arab and African woman, I celebrate everyone’s right to live with dignity,” Jabeur tweeted on Wednesday.

She also shared a photo of a 1961 Tunisian stamp celebrating Africa Day.

Saied last week accused undocumented immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa of bringing a wave of “violence and crime” to the North African country and representing a “criminal plot” to change its demographic makeup.

He claimed unnamed parties had settled sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia in exchange for money for the past decade, according to comments the presidency has published online.

Human rights groups have criticized his comments as “racist” and accused him of fomenting violence against undocumented immigrants, while the African Union condemned Tunisia and urged the country to avoid “racial hate speech”.

Hundreds of West Africans, who have been evicted in recent days by landlords over fears of hefty fines for housing undocumented immigrants, have flocked to their embassies in Tunis to seek repatriation.

Translation: “I am African, not just because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me.”

Another Tunisian sports figure, Radhi Jaidi – a member of the black community who makes up about one-tenth of the country’s 12 million inhabitants – also expressed solidarity with the immigrants over the weekend.

“I am African not just because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me,” he said in an online post.

According to figures from the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, there are about 21,000 undocumented immigrants from other parts of Africa living in Tunisia.

That figure includes foreign university students and employees who complain that they are unable to get the paperwork they need to stay in Tunisia because of the archaic bureaucracy.

Tunisia is an important departure point for refugees trying to reach Europe via what the United Nations says is the deadliest migration route in the world.

Many people from Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea and Ivory Coast work in poorly paid informal jobs to make ends meet and save for attempts to reach Italy.

The country is about 130 km (80 mi) from the Italian island of Lampedusa at its closest point.