40 migrants refused by Malta, Italy land in Tunisia; EU sends Morocco funds to help halt migration

Forty migrants have disembarked at the southern Tunisian port of Zarzis after they were stranded for more than two weeks at sea waiting for permission to dock from Tunisian authorities.

Ali Hajji, captain of the Sarost 5 boat, told The Associated Press Wednesday “this is a great relief for everyone.”

He said two pregnant women have been taken to the hospital, and the Tunisian Red Crescent will take care of other migrants at a shelter in the town of Medenine. The migrants reportedly were at sea in the Mediterranean for five days before a Maltese ship picked them up and transferred them to the Tunisian-flagged commercial boat on July 16.

Italy, Malta and France all refused to let the vessel into their ports.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said Saturday the migrants were allowed to enter Tunisia “for humanitarian reasons.”

Spain’s foreign minister says the European Union’s executive branch has allocated 55 million euros ($64.2 million) to manage an upsurge of migrant arrivals, mostly from Morocco.

Josep Borrell says that at least half of the funds will be used to “alleviate the current circumstances in Morocco,” where an increase of smuggling boat departures has put a strain on Spanish authorities across the Strait of Gibraltar.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the EU has given the North African kingdom more than 100 million euros ($117 million) to tackle migration over the past decade.

In a letter published Wednesday on Twitter, Juncker told Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that the EU was “ready to increase its contribution,” but member countries need to feed a common fiduciary fund for Africa.

With nearly 23,000 migrants arriving so far this year, Spain has become the main entry point into Europe for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

TunisianMonitorOnline (Independent)


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