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Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis

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Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis
Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis

Tunisian police used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse about 100 African asylum seekers and migrants who had been camping outside the headquarters of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the capital, Tunis for some 25 days.

In an open letter, the group from 15 sub-Saharan countries said they had “taken refuge” near the building after being “chase out” of several. Tunisian cities following a February speech by President Kais Saie slamming illegal immigration.

Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis

But local residents were not happy with their presence saying they were “blocking the passage” and that people could “no longer leave their homes”.

“This is a big problem because when they gather like this they feel stronger, they feel safe and they don’t fear the police,” said resident Elyes Ben Zakour.

“They don’t care about people or women, they don’t respect the elderly or the young They don’t care about anything. If you pass by here, they can hit you and tell you to leave,” he said.

Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis

Malian asylum seeker, Famoussa Koita, said he had receive his status and had done his resettlement interview. That others were increasingly frustrate over the long wait for their cases to be dealt with by the UN agency.

“There are others like me who have been here for more than two or three years and they have not summone. This is due to the application procedures,” he said.

Koita added that the UNHCR could not deal with all them and so it was up to the asylum seekers to “understand that there are a lot of applications and they can’t be processe all at the same time”.

Tunisian police dismantle refugee camp outside UNHCR headquarters in Tunis

On 3 April, the agency in Tunisia announced on its Facebook page that it had stopped “all registration and pre-registration activities from 31 March to 17 April due to a migration of the registration and identity system”.

This “temporary” suspension concerned “all UNHCR operations worldwide”.

An AFP reporter at the scene said that after the migrants were disperse. They saw that surveillance cameras and windows at the UN building smashe.