Picture: Tunisian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS/Taken on June 6, 2023 – Tunisia’s President Kais Saied chats with right wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Tunis, Tunisia. A prominent rights group accused Tunisian President Kais Saied of “racism and hate speech” after he vowed to crack down on sub-Saharan African migrants. Tunisia will be the second country after Libya to play the role of border patrol to stop the inflow of migrants into European countries through the Mediterranean Sea, the writer says.
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By Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia and the European Union (EU) signed a “strategic and comprehensive partnership” agreement on Sunday, July 16, to control the movement of migrants and asylum seekers.
The deal was announced during the visit of president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Tunisia, who was accompanied by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. This was their second visit to Tunisia in a little over a month.
The EU had promised a $1 billion “aid package” to Tunisia last month. On Sunday, von der Leyen announced the allocation of around $200 million, of which around $112 million will be used for the border control mechanism and the rest to strengthen Tunisia’s economy, education, and energy sectors.
The EU funding is to “work towards deepening partnership and cooperation in the areas of search and rescue, border management, the fight against trafficking of citizens and law enforcement”, she said.
Italy claims that the number of refugees arriving on boats through the Mediterranean has already reached 75,000 this year. Last year, the total number of such refugees was just 31,900.
Rutte also said in a Twitter post that the agreement with Tunisia was aimed at “disrupting the business model of people smugglers and human traffickers, strengthening border control and improving registration and return [of migrants]”. “All essential measures for bolstering efforts irregular migration.”
Human rights violations
Every year, thousands of people cross the Mediterranean to seek asylum and refugee status in Europe. However, the EU has increasingly refused to admit them, calling them irregular migrants. The EU has signed agreements with bordering countries such as Libya and Turkey to stop these migrants and deport them back to their countries of origin, sometimes in complete violation of the UN convention on refugees and other human rights laws.
According to DW [Deutsche Welle], the amount pledged by the EU to Tunisia for border control is at least three times higher than the amount paid for the same purpose to Libya in the past two years.
The EU has an agreement with Turkey as well, albeit of a slightly different nature but basically to control the movement of migrants across its border, signed in 2016.
The restrictions and laws are among the factors that have led to an increasing number of deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in dangerous conditions. It has also led to increased atrocities on migrants in countries like Libya. The opposition in Tunisia, including the Workers Party, has alleged that the government of President Kais Saied is trying to convert the country into the EU’s border guard.
While Saied recently denied that Tunisia will ever be a border guard to Europe, there are already reports about increasing racial violence and atrocities against migrants in the country.
On July 3, hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants were forced out of Tunisia’s second biggest city, Sfax, following the death of a Tunisian man during clashes that took place there. The Tunisian Red Crescent claims to have rescued around 600 migrants since July 3, with scores more stranded at the country’s borders with Libya and Algeria.
This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch
Brutal treatment of refugees/European agenda
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