EU: drop in migrant departures from Tunisia

EU: drop in migrant departures from Tunisia

Migrants stand in the reception center of Lampedusa, Sicily, on September 14, 2023.
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Belgium

The European Union has “good cooperation” in migration matters with Tunisia, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Tuesday, indicating that departures of migrants from this country had fallen sharply but had increased from Libya.

“Over the last two months, we have seen a drop of approximately 80-90% in departures from Tunisia”, a country with which the EU signed a partnership with a migration component in July, declared the Swedish commissioner during a briefing. “Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in departures from Libya instead,” she said.

These two countries are the main departure points for migrants to Italy, which is seeing a sharp increase in arrivals on its shores.

Ylva Johansson was speaking on the occasion of the holding in Brussels of an “international conference on a global alliance against migrant smuggling”, bringing together representatives of 57 countries. The Commissioner also presented a revised directive intended to toughen the fight against this trafficking, as well as a regulation to strengthen the role of Europol in this area.

Tunisia was not present at ministerial level at the conference, said the European Commissioner. “But we have good cooperation” with this country, she assured, in response to a question on the difficult implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed in July and the tensions around European funds paid to Tunis.

She specified that the drop in departures from the Tunisian coast was due to the reinforced action of the coast guard of this country. “We have also seen a significant increase in voluntary returns of third-country nationals from Tunisia to their countries of origin,” another commitment under the memorandum of understanding, the official further noted.

“Of course, there are still many things to do, our cooperation with Tunisia is broader than just the migration issue. And including in the field of migration, more must be done,” she said. recognized.

The partnership signed with Tunis, intended among other things to reduce arrivals in the EU of migrants from Tunisia, provides aid of 105 million euros to fight against irregular immigration, as well as direct budgetary aid of 150 million euros to this country facing serious economic difficulties.

But President Kais Saied declared in October that he rejected “charity” from the EU and returned, in an unprecedented move, budgetary aid of 60 million euros which had been paid to him by Brussels as part of a separate program of the memorandum of understanding.

This EU-Tunisia partnership is also the target of criticism from NGOs and European parliamentarians, linked in particular to concerns about attacks on the rights of migrants in this country.

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