Swiss justice minister renews Tunisian cooperation deal

Concluding a two-day visit to Tunisia, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga officially extended on Tuesday a cooperation agreement with the North African state and saluted progress made on migration.

The cooperation strategy, launched in 2012 following the Arab spring upheavals, will run until 2020 and includes Swiss support to the tune of over CHF100 million ($103 million), a similar figure to that which has been spent to now.

The strategy is implemented by several political agencies in Switzerland, including the foreign ministry, State Secretariat for Migration, and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, and is built on three focus areas: democratic development, economic growth, and migration.

The latter two are strongly linked in efforts to ensure successful entry of young Tunisians in the job market, which Switzerland is supporting through its know-how regarding traineeship scheme

Internships for progress

An internship program was established in 2014 to facilitate skills-building for Tunisians in the Swiss job market, but it struggled to fill positions in the first year. On Tuesday, nevertheless, Sommaruga described the migration deal as a “model” partnership.

Switzerland has also strengthened cooperation in areas of return assistance and reintegration of asylum seekers, the development of migration management capacities, and the drafting of Tunisian asylum law.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring and currently one of its beacons in terms of democratic progress, initially saw large numbers of its youth applying for asylum in Europe; in 2011, 2,574 asylum requests were registered in Switzerland alone.

These figures have since sharply declined, however, and Tunisia has become more of a transit country for migrants from the surrounding regions; last year the number of Tunisian asylum applications in Switzerland fell to 252.

Sommaruga is in the middle of a four-day trip that will see her travel to Niger and the Sahel region on Wednesday.


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