The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) confirmed on Wednesday that more than 2,000 Tunisian children have arrived in Italy as irregular migrants since the beginning of 2022.
The forum said that a total of 10,139 Tunisians, including 2,102 children and 498 women, managed to reach the European country. The NGO specialising in irregular migration issues did not provide any details about the children's ages.
In contrast, more than 14,700 irregular migrants were intercepted, many of them sub-Saharan Africans, and 443 died or went missing during the same period, according to the same source.
Local media revealed the death of an unemployed Tunisian teacher and her four-year-old son who drowned during an attempt to reach Europe from Monastir on Tunisia's east coast on 14 August. The tragedy was confirmed by a National Guard spokesman on Tuesday, and created an uproar in the country.
The Tunisian Ministry of the Interior announced on 19 August that it had rescued 101 migrants off the coast of Monastir in one week. During the weekend in mid-August, the National Guard intercepted more than 650 irregular migrants, including hundreds of Tunisians, according to the same source.
As weather conditions improve, attempts at irregular migration from the Tunisian and Libyan coasts towards Italy are increasing. The small Italian island of Lampedusa, where many migrants head for, is just 140 km from the east coast of Tunisia.
"The local reality of uncertainty and the daily deterioration of public services," said the FTDES, "makes even the dangerous sea a solution in the eyes of those Tunisians who wish for a better life for themselves and their children."
The organisation condemned the "inhumane" policies of the European Union which restrict freedom of movement. In Tunisia, which is going through a deepening political and economic crisis, there are about four million people living below the poverty line. The country has been deeply divided since President Kais Saied's imposition of emergency measures on 25 July 2021 which saw him take on full executive and legislative power.
According to figures published by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on 12 August, the number of irregular migrants heading for Europe was 14,800 in July, 30 per cent of whom were Tunisians.