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EU, Tunisia sign deal to fight illegal migration

EU, Tunisia sign deal to fight illegal migration
Kais Saied shakes hands with Mark Rutte, Ursula von der Leyen and Giorgia Meloni   -  
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The European Union wishes to negotiate with Egypt and Morocco partnerships similar to the one it has just concluded with Tunisia, relating in particular to the fight against irregular immigration, a European source said on Monday.

The EU and Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding in Tunis on Sunday for a "comprehensive strategic partnership", which also concerns the country's economic development and renewable energies.

On the migratory aspect, it provides for European aid of 105 million euros intended to prevent the departure of migrant boats to the EU from the Tunisian coasts and to fight against smugglers. But also to facilitate the return to this country of Tunisians who are in an irregular situation in the EU, as well as the return from Tunisia to their countries of origin of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted the partnership to be a model for future agreements with countries in the region.

Egypt and Morocco are two countries that could be affected, said a senior European official speaking on condition of anonymity, stressing the benefits of this type of partnership for both sides of the Mediterranean.

But this agreement with Tunis has also drawn criticism because of the treatment of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa by the authorities of this Maghreb country.

Hundreds of migrants were arrested in Tunisia and then "deported", according to NGOs, to inhospitable areas on the borders with Algeria and Libya. Women and children are abandoned in the middle of the desert without water, food or shelter, according to testimonies collected by telephone by AFP and videos sent to NGOs in Tunisia.

It is "not about signing a check" to the Tunisian authorities, stressed the European official, indicating that the agreement provided for a series of contracts with different actors, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The memorandum of understanding concluded on Sunday between the EU and Tunisia, in the presence of Ursula von der Leyen, President Kais Saied, but also Italian heads of government Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Mark Rutte, will have to be approved by all. of EU member states.

While European countries like Italy wanted to be able to send migrants back to Tunisia who had simply transited through that country, Tunis has made it clear that it does not want "to be a country of settlement for irregular migrants". The agreement therefore only covers the return of Tunisian nationals who are in an irregular situation in the EU.

The protocol signed plans to devote 15 million euros - out of the 105 million - to the "voluntary" return of some 6,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa from Tunisia to their countries of origin.

In addition, the EU intends to deliver to the Tunisian coastal authorities eight boats for search and rescue operations and drones.

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