The EU and Tunisia have entered into a strategic partnership to combat “irregular migration” and strengthen diplomatic and economic ties with North African countries. EU Commission President Von Der Leyen has praised this agreement as an investment in “shared prosperity and stability”.
Tunisian President Kais Saied said that there needs to be a collective agreement on inhumane trafficking, which is one of the prime issues this agreement will tackle.
Tunisia and the EU have been working closely for the past few months as Tunisia has been plagued with economic issues, humanitarian issues with refugees, and the increasing danger of human traffickers.
Von Der Leyen has announced a package of aid that includes $73 million for the modernization of Tunisian schools and $11 million for student exchanges. This aid package not only shows a sign of goodwill, but it also reinforces that the EU is willing to help Tunisia achieve its goals, including stopping trafficking.
Von Der Leyen has said “we need an effective cooperation now more than ever”. This cooperation comes in the form of an anti-smuggling partnership as well as coordinating search and rescue missions, for which Von Der Leyen has promised an extra $112 million for those efforts alone.
The migration crisis has put many people in danger and left European countries scrambling to find places for refugees. Italy is a common destination for immigrants, and it has received almost 75,000 people who have disembarked by boat since the beginning of this year, which is double the number of last year in the same period.
The deal also places Tunisia as an eventual settlement for the immigrants bound for Europe. This would mean that immigrants caught in Europe would be returned to Tunisia for permanent resettlement.
The primary issue that the country is facing is that it lacks the framework to accept immigrants, which is also resulting in Tunisian nationals turning to violence to prevent immigrants from staying.
There have also been instances where Tunisians have left migrants to die. The most recent example was Sunday, when Libyan border guards rescued immigrants who had been left with no food or water by Tunisian authorities.
There are reports of growing anti-immigration sentiment in the region, causing people to be kicked out of homes and jobs and face violence.
This will be one of the many problems that the EU and Tunisia will have to solve together as they move closer to sharing a partnership in tackling immigration.