More than 2,000 Tunisian minors made the perilous Mediterranean crossing from the North African country to Italy so far this year, Tunisian rights group FTDES has said. Tunisians currently account for the greatest number of migrants arriving in Italy.
The more than 2,000 minors were among a total of 10,139 Tunisian migrants to have made it to Italy since the start of 2022, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) said Wednesday (August 24).
The latest tally by the Italian Interior Ministry (through August 15) is slightly lower with 9,506 sea arrivals from Tunisia. Tunisians account for around 20% of all migrants arriving on Italian shores so far this year, followed by Egyptians and Bangladeshis.
FTDES also said that Tunisian authorities intercepted and returned more than 14,700 migrants since the beginning of the year, almost half of them Tunisian citizens. The rest are from sub-Saharan African nations, a FTDES spokesperson told InfoMigrants on request. The organization estimates that 15-20% of returned migrants depart from the Libyan coast.
Deprivation driven by a deep socioeconomic crisis "make the dangers of the sea a secondary factor for those migrants who dream of a better life for themselves and their children," FTDES said.
'Inhumane' EU migration policies
The organization also deplored "the inhumane politics of the European Union, which constrains the freedom of movement" of migrants.
Earlier this month, an unemployed Tunisian teacher and her four-year-old son drowned off the coast of Monastir, news agency dpa reported. The incident prompted an outpouring of national grief.
In mid-August, more than 650 migrants, including hundreds of Tunisians, were intercepted over the course of three days after their boats got into trouble in 46 separate incidents.
According to dpa, some four million people live below the poverty line in Tunisia.
Divisions have been sharpened by a power grab by President Kais Saied, who last year suspended a fractious parliament and has since ruled by decree, dpa reported.
Deadly migration route
The Central Mediterranean route from northern Africa to Europe is among the deadliest migration routes in the world. 918 people are estimated to have perished so far this year. The closest crossing between the Tunisian coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa is about 140 kilometers.
Last year, more than 1,500 people drowned while trying to reach European shores. There is no state-run sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Ships operated by humanitarian groups conduct search-and-rescue missions to assist migrants in distress. It often takes several days or longer until they are assigned a port for disembarkation.