World Bank halts Tunisia program

World Bank halts Tunisia program

World Bank halts Tunisia program

The World Bank is pausing talks over its future engagement with Tunisia following anti-immigrant comments made by the country’s president, Kais Saied, according to an internal message to staff seen by AFP.

In the message sent on March 5 evening, the bank’s outgoing President David Malpass said Saied’s tirade had triggered “racially motivated harassment and even violence,” and that the institution had postponed a planned meeting involving Tunisia until further notice.

“Given the situation, management has decided to pause the Country Partnership Framework and withdraw it from Board review,” said Malpass in the note to staff.

Hundreds of migrants have flown home from Tunisia, fearful of a wave of violence since the president’s remarks.

Last month, Saied ordered officials to take “urgent measures” to tackle irregular migration, claiming without evidence that “a criminal plot was underway to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup.

He claimed that migrants were behind most crime in the North African country, fueling a spate of sackings, evictions and attacks.

“Public commentary that stokes discrimination, aggression, and racist violence is completely unacceptable,” said Malpass in the note to World Bank staff.

But he also noted that measures announced by the Tunisian government to protect and support migrants and refugees marked a “positive step,” adding that the bank would assess and monitor its impact carefully.

The development lender will roll out additional safety measures for its staff on the ground, and may take more action if needed, he added.