The African Union canceled a conference it planned to hold in Tunisia later this month, after criticising the government over attacks on migrants in the country.
The conference on fighting illicit financial flows in Africa scheduled for mid-March was postponed on March 2, an African Union spokeswoman said by text message on Monday. No new host country has been chosen for the meeting.
Hundreds of citizens of sub-Saharan African nations have left Tunisia since President Kais Saied blamed migrants for a rise in violent crime. He ordered security forces to stop all illegal migration and expel all undocumented migrants, and a series of arrests followed. Ivory Coast, Mali and Guinea began evacuating their citizens from Tunisia last week.
Human-rights groups have accused Saied of stoking xenophobia to deflect from a growing economic and political crisis. The African Union issued a statement on Feb. 24 urging Tunisia to “refrain from racialised hate speech that could bring people to harm.”
Tunisia on Sunday rejected responsibility for the racial violence and pledged to hold to account anyone responsible for attacking migrants, regardless of their residency status.
The Tunisian state is the target of a campaign accusing it of racism, while it only sought to ensure “laws of the land are respected to avoid spreading chaos,” the presidency said in a statement.
There are about 21,000 sub-Saharan Africans living in Tunisia, according to FTDES, a social and economic rights advocacy group.