It all started as a crackdown on African migrants, but it has now degenerated into a major crisis as Tunisia remains resolute in tightening immigration restrictions.
Thousands have been forced to flee the racial crackdown, an action that flared up initially after a speech by President Kais Saied last February, where he told security forces to expel all illegal immigrants.
President Saied has defended his speech, calling migration a conspiracy to change Tunisia’s demographics to make it more African and less Arab.
In spite of several condemnations from global bodies including the African Union Saied denounced them.
Now tensions have worsened with landlords summarily evicting thousands from their homes with force.
What triggered latest evictions?
The latest evictions were triggered by the killing of a Tunisian man this month during an altercation with some migrants in Sfax.
“We are going to avenge his death!” young people chanted at the victim’s funeral, according to video footage published online.
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.
There was unrest and an attack on the migrants, leaving some of them wounded. The disturbances in Sfax lasted a week.
Residents there complained of disorderly behaviour by migrants but the migrants also complained about racist harassment.
Thousands of undocumented migrants have flocked to Sfax in recent months hoping to reach Europe in boats run by human traffickers.
According to a local NGO group’s reporting, during the reprisal attacks, some migrants were thrown from balconies and others attacked with swords.
Crackdown reaches brutal stage
Tunisia’s crackdown has now become very brutal stage with migrants evicted transferred to a desolate Sahara military area on the border with Libya.
A migrant, Louise Fallone told the BBC in its reporting on the crisis that their plights have become unbearable.
“At 2am, Tunisian teenagers attacked… They threw stones at us and held a knife to my throat. I took my baby and fled without clothes.
My Tunisian neighbour threw a blanket over me as I ran. They took my money and broke everything we had,” he was quoted as narrating.
Witnesses say that dozens have been forced out of the city, which is a key departure point for people seeking to enter the European Union by sailing to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
But after several criticisms, Tunisia has now moved hundreds of the migrants to shelters in two towns.
Tunisia has said it is simply responding to the high numbers of sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to leave its shores for Europe.
Local and international rights groups say the approach is endangering lives. Women and children are among those targeted in the crackdown.