Esther Lynch, the Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, has been given 24 hours to leave Tunisia by Tunisian President Kais Saied. The presidency said in a statement that Lynch was considered “persona non grata” and had to depart the country. The decision was made after Lynch made comments during a speech that the Tunisian government deemed to be “blatant interference” in the country’s internal affairs. She was participating in a demonstration organised by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT).
During a demonstration in Sfax, Tunisia’s second city, Lynch addressed thousands of people, calling for solidarity with the UGTT, demanding that the government “sit down and negotiate with the UGTT for a solution” to the country’s economic issues, and urging the release of senior UGTT official Anis Kaabi, who was arrested on January 31 following a strike by toll booth staff. The protests were organized to demand an end to painful austerity measures that the UGTT has warned are likely to be part of a bailout loan being negotiated with the International Monetary Fund.
The government has been accused of failing to implement reforms and attacking the union. Demonstrators at the protests in Sfax chanted slogans opposing the removal of subsidies and calling for an end to the economic crisis. Some raised loaves of bread in a symbol of protest at rising living costs.