Tunisia does not want to be Europe’s border guard to slow down migration

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s president said Monday that his country does not want to be Europe’s border guard or a land of resettlement for migrants rejected elsewhere.

President Kais Saied made the comment after meeting French and German interior ministers in Tunis as part of an effort by European governments to work with Tunisia to prevent deadlier migration efforts across the Mediterranean. .

Tunisia has become one of the main crossing points for migrants wishing to cross from Africa to Europe, and European officials are offering Tunisia ever-increasing aid in an attempt to slow the flow. Most of those fleeing war or hardship come from sub-Saharan Africa, but many come from Tunisia, which is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation.

The visit by the French and German interior ministers, who oversee the migration policy of the biggest powers in the European Union, was the third high-level European visit to Tunisia in two weeks. It came after an overcrowded trawler capsized off the coast of Greece last week, leaving at least 80 people dead and hundreds missing as they sought to reach Italy from Libya.

Saied said after the session that security crackdowns were not enough to prevent a deadly migration. He said Tunisia would not be Europe’s border guard and would “not agree to become a resettlement country” for migrants expelled from Europe. He bristled at suggestions that migrants refusing permission to stay in Europe be sent to the last country they transited through instead of their country of origin.

Blaming smuggling networks, Saied called for more development aid and the fight against poverty. “Let’s work together to dismantle them and eliminate the reasons that led to this situation,” he said.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced aid of 25 million euros to buy Tunisian border police equipment and train border guards. This is on top of some €1bn in various aid offers from the European Commission earlier this month and further aid from Italy.

Despite concerns about human rights threats in Tunisia under Saied’s increasingly autocratic rule, Darmanin praised Tunisian authorities’ efforts to prevent migration. “We stand with Tunisia,” he said.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said ahead of their joint trip: “We want to create legal migration paths in order to remove the basis for the inhumane smuggling trade. We want the human rights of refugees to be protected and the terrible deaths in the Mediterranean to end. »

Tunisian authorities say they intercept thousands of people every month trying to leave in boats off the coastal city of Sfax. Over the weekend, 11 boats were intercepted carrying some 260 people, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa but also Tunisians, National Guard spokesman Houssameddine Jbabli said.


Associated Press journalists Mehdi El-Arem in Tunis and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

Leave a Comment