Tunisia: NGO says migrant flows to Italy up sharply

FTDES says popular protests fuel irregular emigration

25 February, 17:25

    TUNIS - A considerable increase in the number of undcoumented migrants who have arrived in Italy from Tunisia has taken place since January 1 of this year, said Romdhane Ben Amor, communications officer for the NGO Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES).

    He said 558 Tunisian migrants disembarked on Italian shores in January 2021, compared to 94 in the same period last year and 31 in 2019.

    According to Ben Amor, recent popular protests in Tunisia have fueled a new wave of migration.

    "The rate of irregular migration has recently grown, led by over 1,400 protests since January," he said.

    "The demonstrations have seen police respond with excessive violence and arrest young protesters," he said.

    He said the methods with which the police have faced the protests intensifies frustration among young people and increases the flow of irregular migration.

    Sixty-five attempts to cross to Italian shores have been thwarted since the start of 2021, compared to 47 in the same period last year and 12 in 2019, FTDES said.

    Ben Amor said 1,051 people have been arrested for crimes connected to migration since the start of the year, compared to 887 in the same period in 2020 and 223 in 2019.

    The region of Sfax reported the highest increase in irregular migration to Italy, with nearly 30% of departures, followed by Mahdia (26%), Tunis (over 16%) and Nabeul (about 13%), he said.

    "The Tunisian Coast Guard has by now become an affiliated force with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), acting by proxy for Frontex, and is dedicated to intercepting irregular migrants outside territorial waters. There is a dangerous tendency on the level of security relations and information exchange on the topic of irregular migration among Tunisia and the European Union," Ben Amor said.

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