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Tunisia: opposition rejects ‘Mediterranean deal’ for migrants

June 13, 2023 at 9:37 am

African immigrants, who have settled in the al-Buhaire region in the north of the capital Tunis of Tunisia continue their lives on the streets with limited opportunities on March 05, 2023 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Political opponents of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied have criticised Europe’s proposed financial aid package, cautioning against what they call the “Mediterranean Deal”. They decry the fact that the deal would see Tunisia become a “border guard for Europe” despite President Kais Saied’s emphatic rejection of such a proposition. Saied’s supporters have also warned about a European plan to settle sub-Saharan African migrants in the country.

“Today, it became clear why Italy wants to assist Tunisia and consider it a safe country, in order to deport Tunisian and foreign migrants to it,” said Majdi Al-Karbawi, a former parliamentarian and a specialist in migrant rights. “This was the reason for the recent visit of European officials. Tunisia has officially become a border guard for Europe or an advanced border point. As for the language of projects and energy, they are projects that deplete Tunisia’s natural resources in favour of Europe.”

Former Minister Khaled Choukat was more forceful in his comment: “One aspect of the hypocrisy of some fascist European regimes is that they do not desire the presence of respected democratic political systems on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Instead, they only want guards and servants who receive rewards based on their loyalty and engagement in the European agenda.” The failure to understand the democratic lesson, it seems, is not limited to some of Tunisia’s elites, he noted. “They are sick with their ideological animosities and addicted to the discourse of exclusion, but a part of the European elite remains captive to a condescending and colonial view that sees us as inferior peoples to be dealt with only through force.”

READ: Anonymous scholars accuse African migrants of ‘invading Tunisia’

According to the Tunisian Observatory for Human Rights, the issue of migration and asylum is no longer primarily a humanitarian issue; it is a highly political matter, with Europe insisting on combining the two paths. “We reject the trap of Tunisia accepting financial aid and reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for accepting new measures regarding the migration file and turning it into a backstage platform for gathering irregular immigrants coming from sub-Saharan countries,” the organisation wrote on Facebook. “Moreover, we are surprised at the step taken by the European Union countries to amend the Dublin Convention on the repatriation of migrants arriving in Europe back to safe transit countries.” It added that it also rejects what it called “the policy of extortion and exploitation of the security, economic and social conditions prevailing therein.”

The group called on the Tunisian authorities to shoulder their historical responsibilities, enforce their sovereignty, and not succumb to diktats regardless of the constraints. “Tunisia is a transit country and not a land for refuge and resettlement, and it will not become a backyard for European Union countries.”

Activists also sent a message to Saied, which was circulated on social media, saying that they support his concept, decisions and patriotism in saving the Tunisian people from bankruptcy and hunger caused by the aftermath of the Mafia [sic] during the black decade, a reference to the period when Ennahda governed the country. “However, we would like to emphasise and warn that the sale, trade or violation of the sanctity of Tunisian land and the dignity of the Tunisian people cannot be justified by a handful of money under the pretext of assistance. We do not want to fall into the traps of the European Union, the main supporter of impoverishing, plundering and starving the African continent and Arab countries, especially Tunisia, due to its strategic location.”

READ: EU considering major Tunisia aid package as migration surges