EU urges Tunisia to take action to reduce mediterranean migrant flow


EU leaders are set to discuss measures to provide aid to Tunisia in order to curb the departure of migrant boats bound for Europe.

This discussion comes in the wake of a recent tragedy where a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of Greece, resulting in the loss of at least 82 lives and leaving many others missing.

The circumstances surrounding the sinking remain unclear, according to reports.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have attributed the tragedy to the EU’s “Fortress Europe” policy, which has been in place for the past seven years following a significant influx of Syrian war refugees.

In his letter inviting leaders to the Brussels summit, European Council chief Charles Michel acknowledged the tragic shipwreck and emphasized the need for continued efforts to address the migratory challenge in Europe.

The summit will also review the progress made in implementing decisions made during a previous summit in February, particularly in relation to EU asylum rules. Earlier in June, EU countries reached an agreement on revising the bloc’s long-stalled asylum rules.

The objective is to distribute the responsibility of hosting asylum seekers among EU nations, with countries refusing to participate being required to provide financial contributions to those that do.

Poland and Hungary, who were outvoted on this plan, strongly oppose it and intend to raise the issue at the summit.

Frontex, the EU’s border patrol agency, has identified boat crossings across the central Mediterranean as the primary route for irregular migrant entries into Europe.

The number of crossings departing from North African countries such as Tunisia and heading towards Italy and Malta has more than doubled between January and May of this year compared to the same period in 2022, according to Frontex.

In an attempt to replicate the successful approach used with Turkey in 2016, where financial assistance of six billion euros significantly reduced irregular migration flows, the EU is seeking to extend a similar tactic to Tunisia.

On June 11, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered Tunisia over one billion euros in aid, with 150 million euros to be provided immediately and 900 million euros in long-term assistance, subject to Tunisia meeting the International Monetary Fund’s conditions for a loan worth nearly $2 billion.

The EU funds would primarily be directed toward improving economic prospects in Tunisia.

An additional 100 million euros is earmarked for enhancing Tunisia’s border patrols, search and rescue operations, and the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers.

However, Tunisia, despite its financial burdens, has expressed reservations about what its President, Kais Saied, referred to as IMF “diktats.”

The United States government has strongly urged Tunisia to implement IMF reforms, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning two weeks ago that the country risked economic collapse.

Italy’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, emphasized the importance of addressing Tunisia’s financial problems to ensure stability, especially given the ongoing fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

France, on its part, has pledged 26 million euros in aid to Tunisia to help reduce irregular migrant departures across the Mediterranean.

Many of the migrants departing from Tunisia originate from sub-Saharan Africa.

The country is also grappling with a worsening economic crisis, prompting many of its citizens to undertake perilous journeys in search of better lives abroad.

The International Organization for Migration has reported that in 2022, 2,406 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean, with an additional 1,166 deaths or disappearances recorded since the beginning of 2023.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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