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France pledges financial support to Tunisia in bid to curb irregular migration

France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin speaks during a press conference following their meeting with the president, in Tunis on June 19, 2023.   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


European officials are promising Tunisia ever-growing amounts of aid to try to prevent migrants from reaching Europe's shores.

Monday's (June 19) visit by the French and German interior ministers was the third high-level European visit to Tunisia in two weeks.

France's Darmanin announced a budget to train Tunisian border guards and equip them.

"The immediate financial package of 100 million euros to combat irregular migration, as announced by the European Commission, will open up significant additional possibilities."

"Moreover, I have come to announce, at the request of the President of the French Republic, the bilateral aid provided by our countries [France and Germany]. And for France, I announced 25.8 million euro in aid to [Tunisia's] interior minister this morning."

That comes on top of some 1 billion euros in various aid offers from the European Commission earlier this month, and new aid from Italy.

The EU funding, part of a larger financial aid package to boost the Tunisian economy, is contingent on the approval of the nearly $2 billion IMF loan that has been under negotiation since last year.

Tunisia’s president told the officials that his country doesn’t want to be Europe's border guard or a land of resettlement for migrants rejected elsewhere.

"We are sensitive to the idea that Tunisia should not be the European Union's border guard. That's not its vocation. But on the other hand, we must work to ensure that in the countries of departure, since many people come here from the south [of the African continent], from the Sahel, there can be a minimum number of departures. And I believe that France has privileged diplomatic relations with these countries, which contribute, as Tunisia has requested, to preventing these irregular flows."

The French minister defended the "European approach to the migration challenge" and said that alongside African authorities, they would "fight against the networks of smugglers" and back the return of migrants to their home countries.

Tunisian authorities say they intercept thousands of people every month trying to leave in boats off the coastal city of Sfax.

The Italian island of Lampedusa lies only about 150 kilometres from the Tunisian coast.

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