Imed Soltani, chairman of La Terre Pour Tous / ANSA
Imed Soltani, chairman of La Terre Pour Tous / ANSA

The families of the Tunisian association La Terre Pour Tous are seeking the truth about what happened to 504 Tunisian youths who disappeared in 2011 in a journey to Italy. They have put pressure on governments to help, meanwhile raising awareness on the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean.

Despite six years of research, demonstrations and investigations, the fate of over 500 Tunisian migrants who went missing after crossing the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy is still unknown. The Tunisian association La Terre Pour Tous wants to find out the truth and inform Tunisian youths of the dangers of travelling via sea to Europe.

The association was founded by the family members of those youths who fled Tunisia after the 2011 uprising, travelled to Italy and then disappeared. The youths arrived in Italy but nothing is known thereafter ''The fact that these youths arrived in Italy is proven by photos and videos. Fathers and mothers have recognised their children, who got onto police buses. Nothing is known after that,'' the association's chairman, Imed Soltani, said during a meeting in Rome. 

Imed Soltani's nephews also disappeared during the journey to Europe. ''Our association is working with the families in three ways,'' Soltani told ANSA. ''We have put on some demonstrations in front of Tunisian ministries to open an inquiry into the disappearance of the youths. From the legal point of view, we have lodged complaints in Tunisia and Italy and our lawyers are following the case.''

La Terre Pour Tous also seeks to inform youths intending to travel to Europe. "We try to explain to them what they will actually have to deal with", Soltani explained. 

European Union responsibility 

Following three years of pressure, La Terre Pour Tous managed to get a commission of inquiry established into the youths' disappearance. "We want this investigation to give us answers in Italy as well", Soltani said. To this end, a collaboration was created with the commissioner's office tasked in Italy with missing persons. The process, however, has stalled since February 2016. "There is political will in Italy and Tunisia to stop the investigation.'' 

Soltani said that most of the responsibility for the situation ''belongs to the European Union and not Italy. It is the policy to seal the borders that forces people to take these 'vessels of death'. Europe must end these policies that only lead to desperation in our country. It must open the borders.''

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