In a landmark agreement announced on Sunday, Tunisia and the European Union pledged to collaborate more extensively in fighting against human trafficking, and to strengthen their border controls. The move comes amidst a recent surge in boat departures from the North African nation bound for Europe.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, has declared that the EU will commit €100 million to assist Tunisia in its efforts against illegal migration. Besides, this strategic partnership is designed to foster trade and investment between the two entities, channel financial support to Tunisian schools, and support renewable energy initiatives.
"Bound by Our Shared History and Geography"
Von der Leyen emphasized the significance of the partnership during her speech: “Tunisia and the European Union are bound by our shared history and geography, and we share strategic interests,” she stated.
On his part, Tunisian President Kais Saied underscored the urgent need for a collective response to what he termed "inhuman migration", laying the blame squarely at the feet of criminal networks. He further demanded that the memorandum be swiftly followed by binding agreements emanating from its principles.
A Pledge for Economic Aid and Migration Control
The new agreement arrives on the heels of discussions held in June, during which von der Leyen, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni met with Saied.
They pledged up to €900 million in aid to boost Tunisia's economy. In addition, the European Commission stated its intention to provide an extra €105 million in 2023 to further combat illegal migration. Rutte elaborated on the deal in a tweet: “It contains agreements on disrupting the business model of people smugglers and human traffickers, strengthening border control and improving registration and return.
All essential measures for bolstering efforts to stop irregular migration”.
The Migration Crisis: A Rising Tide
The agreement comes as Italy records a sharp uptick in migrants arriving by sea. Official data reveals that as of July 14, 75,065 migrants had reached Italian shores, nearly doubling the 31,920 figure from the same period in the previous year.
More than half originated from Tunisia, outpacing Libya, the traditional departure point for such journeys. As part of ongoing efforts to address the crisis, Meloni revealed that an international conference on migration is set to take place in Rome next Sunday. The conference will host a number of heads of state, including President Saied.
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