Nearly 300 people returned to Mali and Ivory Coast on Saturday after returning flights from Tunisia, fearing a spate of violence since the president launched a speech targeting migrants.
Last month, President Kais Saied ordered the authorities to take “urgent measures” to tackle irregular migration and claimed without evidence that a “criminal conspiracy” was at work “to change Tunisia’s demographic composition”.
Said claimed migrants were behind most crimes in the North African country, prompting a spate of evictions, forced evictions and assaults.
The African Union expressed “deep shock and concern” at his comments as governments in sub-Saharan Africa sought to expel hundreds of frightened citizens who had flocked to their embassies seeking help.
An AFP journalist reported that a group of 135 Malians arrived in Bamako late Saturday night.
They were received by Defense Minister Sadio Camara and expatriate Finance Minister Al-Hamad Ag Ellen, who said the Malian government had chartered the plane.
The minister said there were 97 men, 25 women and 13 children on board.
A plane with 145 passengers also landed in Abidjan on Saturday night. An AFP journalist said they were greeted by Prime Minister Patrick Ashe and several ministers.
They have been taken to a reception center where they will receive medical and psychological care for three days before being reunited with their families.