France looks to work with Tunisia on returning extremists

Scene of the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

November 9, 2020

Article Highlights:

  • Tunisian nationals constitute a significant portion of foreign jihadists in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
  • Tunisia is willing on certain conditions to take back its nationals expelled from France.
  • Public opinion in Tunisia is hostile towards the return of suspected jihadists.

Little Tunisia has a BIG jihadist problem

In 2015, the United Nations released a report that highlighted some 5,000 Tunisians traveled to Syria, Iraq and Libya over the past decade.

The Washington Post documented that in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Tunisians traveled to Syria, Iraq and Libya “more than any other nationality from outside those countries.

While it is important to note that Tunisian authorities claim the figure is lower, around 3,000, it still is highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the world.

The alleged perpetrator of that attack, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui, who arrived illegally in Europe in late September, is not the first Tunisian suspected of carrying out a deadly jihadist attack in Europe.

France wants Tunisia to take Jihadits fighters back…

France is focused on dealing with this sensitive situation following the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

For starters, France wants to expel some 20 Tunisians already convicted on terrorism charges or suspected of jihadist inclinations.

According to several reports, Tunisia is willing to take back its nationals from France under specific conditions.

Tunisians are NOT in a rush to take back fighters…

Most Tunisians are against the return of the suspected jihadists as they seem them as a threat to their young democracy and modern way of life. Authorities have refused the return of their troubled citizens from France on the basis of travel restrictions linked to the ongoing pandemic.

Tunisia Security Outlook

Security Insight: The return of the suspected jihadists are a security concern in Tunisia. Security analysts calculate that some 70 percent of over 230 foreigners illegally in France and suspected of radicalism are from the Maghreb region which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

Operational Impact: While this development may not have an immediate impact on foreign businesses operating in Tunisia, it is important for companies to monitor the negotiations for future risk assessments.

Travel to Tunisia: The latest State Department Travel Advisory for Tunisia is a Level 3: Reconsider Travel. On 28 October the Tunisian authorities introduced new measures due to the ongoing pandemic. These measures include a national curfew and travel restrictions. 

We will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia by providing up to date analysis and support. Currently, our Security Portal which provides advanced tactical and in-depth forecasting, is proving to be an effective tool for organizations operating in Tunisia.

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