Three French police officers arrested at Tunis-Carthage airport

The case did not make much noise in Tunis, but it did sufficiently in France for the newspaper Le Parisien to report on it. Expulsions of foreigners categorised as dangerous or in an irregular situation are growing in intensity in France; Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has even made it a priesthood since the terrorist attack in Pas-de-Calais. Well, there are certainly electoral purposes in the face of an extreme right that all polls show as winning. The fact remains that the Maghreb countries – Morocco and Algeria in particular – collaborate on the application of the OQTF (obligation to leave French territory). In exchange, France lifts the lock on visas. Tunisia also collaborates but there are red lines. Three French police officers were suspected of having trampled them.

Three officers of the Border Police (PAF) were apprehended on Wednesday, November 22, 2023, at the end of the afternoon at Tunis airport while they were bringing back a Tunisian with OQTF, a police source told the newspaper French. The three police officers were arrested as soon as they disembarked for alleged “police violence” against the man they were escorting.

The affair started at Marseille-Provence airport on Tuesday afternoon. Ridha A., convicted in France for violence with weapons and advocating terrorism, is preparing to take the plane to Tunis. The man allegedly balked on the airport tarmac and jostled the French agents mobilized to escort him, specifies the police source…

The three PAF agents then employed professional police techniques to control him. In the device the man would have stopped resisting and would even have apologized. Except that a video of the heated exchange was seemingly captured by a passenger on the plane – a lawyer, it is said – and immediately sent to the Tunisian authorities. So when the three officers landed in Tunis their “welcome committee” was already in place.

The French agents were cooked by their Tunisian colleagues for a little over six hours, then were freed during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. They got their hands on their passports, reached their hotels before leaving the country smoothly, the Interior Ministry was told. “They arrived in Nice at 4:20 p.m. today,” said the same source.

Grégory Joron, general secretary of the police union SGP FO, remarked on the facts: “From the words of former escorts, for some, this is the first time this has happened , a guarantee of the professionalism of the police officers (…). Escorts usually face individuals who rebel and do not want to be escorted back. To be picked up as they were once they arrived in Tunis, with their passports confiscated because a witness put forward the theory of a bad gesture by an escort towards the Tunisian police is incomprehensible”…

He addressed the authorities: “We expect the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs to put things straight, in a context where deportations are intensifying, especially involving dangerous profiles.”

What is certain is that after this incident and the cold sweat of the French police officers they will show even more sensitivity in the treatment of expelled foreigners. The bravado of Tunis could be emulated. Other Maghreb countries could start to scrutinize the way their nationals are returned home.

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