Migration: Refugees from Tunisia

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Crumbling Libya is one of the most important transit countries for migrants. But recently, many have crossed the Mediterranean from Tunisia. This is also due to Corona.


Migrants rescued by the Italian coast guard on Wednesday from the Pelagie Islands: their boat came from Tunisia. © Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP / Getty Images

The escape routes across the Mediterranean are shifting. In addition to Libya, more and more has been moving since the beginning of July Tunisia in the center of the action. The development is so rapid that Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, urged those responsible to conscience during a short visit to Tunis. The migration from the small Mediterranean country is “completely uncontrolled”, complained the Italian politician and called for tougher action.

Because the number of boats that reach Tunisia from Sicily, Lampedusa or the southern Italian mainland increases every day. In July alone, more than 5,000 of the 12,000 migrants registered since January came, three times as many as in the previous year. Almost half of them set off in Tunisia, the other half in Libya. Most of the new arrivals are now Tunisians, followed by people from Bangladesh and the Ivory Coast. Predominantly young men set out by sea, but whole families also. The crossing currently costs between 600 and 1,100 euros per person.

Italy was quite surprised by the sudden rush of the past four weeks. The population has also feared newly introduced Covid 19 cases since mass outbreaks occurred in three reception centers in Sicily. 300 Tunisians fled the 14-day corona quarantine within 24 hours, apparently for fear of being immediately returned to their home country. The police were able to find most of them quickly, but several dozen remained missing. Now Rome wants to position two larger ferries off the coast of Sicily, none of which are easy to get off. In the port of Lampedusa, citizens protested with a sit-in against the again growing number of migrants.

Four times as many as in the previous year

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied expressed understanding of Italian concerns, but stressed that security forces alone “could not solve the phenomenon of illegal migration”. Investments in the countries of origin are important. Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi, who is to be the newly nominated prime minister in the next four weeks, promised his counterpart from Rome to act more vigorously against trafficking gangs and departing migrant boats.

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