Italy and Tunisia forge stronger ties to tackle migration challenges

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni began an important diplomatic mission in Tunis on Wednesday (17 April), where she consolidated a partnership with President Kais Saied aimed at tackling the challenges of migration. “Working with Tunisia is an absolute priority for Italy in many respects, and it is also part of the work that Italy is doing with the Mattei plan,” said Ms Meloni at a press conference in Tunis after she met with Mr Saied.

The Mattei plan, a 5.5 billion euro project by Mr Meloni’s government, aims to foster economic development in Africa, stimulate growth to reduce illegal immigration to Europe and make Italy an energy hub for transporting natural gas from Africa to Europe. Tunisia is considered a “priority” in this plan. Meloni stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation with Tunisia to ensure that the country does not become a point of arrival for migrants wishing to enter Europe. In this respect, she advocated involving international organisations and focusing not only on repatriations but also on regular migratory flows.

“On the legal immigration front, I believe that Italy can do much more”, said Meloni. “But we must work together to continue the fight against the slavers of the third millennium, the mafia organisations that exploit the legitimate aspirations of those seeking a better life”.

In addition to migration issues, agreements totalling 100 million euros were signed in three areas: direct budgetary support for energy efficiency and renewable energies in Tunisia, a credit line for Tunisian small and medium-sized enterprises, and a memorandum of understanding between the respective ministries of universities and research.

This close collaboration demonstrates Italy’s ongoing commitment to supporting Tunisia, which is considered a crucial element for the stability of the Mediterranean and North Africa. Meloni’s visit to Tunis marks the fourth official meeting in a year, underlining the deepening of bilateral ties.

The intensification of relations with President Saied’s government highlights the importance recognised by the EU, largely thanks to Italian efforts, in relations with Tunisia.

According to analysts, the main reason for European attention is the increase in irregular arrivals from Tunisia to Italy since last autumn. By 2023, more than 50% of departures to Italian shores will come from Tunisia, reversing a trend that has long made Libya the main point of departure in the central Mediterranean.

On 16 July, the EU and Tunisia signed a memorandum aimed, among other things, at combating irregular arrivals of migrants from the Mediterranean. Similar agreements have recently been signed with Egypt.

However, these initiatives are not without their critics. The spokesman for Amnesty International Italy, Riccardo Noury, said that agreements to outsource border control with southern Mediterranean states reward governments that violate human rights.

“The agreement with Tunisia is all the more so because it will reward a leader, President Saied, whose racist and xenophobic discourse has become a factor in encouraging people to leave the country. These agreements do not prevent people from leaving, they only make them more deadly”, he declared.


Related posts