How fear of a migrant 'conspiracy' has hit Tunisia

STORY: Since Tunisia’s president Kais Saied announced a crackdown on illegal immigration, many African migrants say their lives have been completely destabilized.

The president recently claimed in a speech that there has been a conspiracy to change the country’s racial makeup. It has a name: the "great replacement" theory, where political elites replace native inhabitants with immigrants who support their political ideology.

He ordered security forces to halt illegal immigration and to expel anyone living illegally in Tunisia.

Berry Bialy Stephen, an Ivory Coast national, is now afraid to stay in the country.

"We were kicked out of the house, we live on the streets. In the streets, we are still attacked... so this morning, we came here to the embassy, trying to see if they can help us to return home."

He is not the only one.

Since the speech, social media has been filled with accounts of similar stories by darker-skinned people in Tunisia – including migrants, African students and Black Tunisians.

And last week, hundreds of people took to the streets in capital Tunis to protest against racism.

Tunisia's social rights forum, a group that works with migrants, said it had documented hundreds of arbitrary arrests, evictions, and violent assaults, including with knives, that police had been slow to respond to.

Saied's speech was called "shocking" by the African Union and denounced as racialized.

The leader denied racism, but doubled down on the idea that there was a plot to change Tunisia’s demographics.

However his critics say this crackdown may be a response to concerns over his political support, after an ultra-low election turnout.

The social rights forum said the campaign “aims to create an imaginary enemy for Tunisians to distract them from their basic problems.”