From file: Pro-refugee demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland | Credit: ANSA
From file: Pro-refugee demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland | Credit: ANSA

Switzerland will extend its strategy on migratory cooperation with Tunisia through 2020, with a planned investment of more than 100 million Swiss francs over four years. The strategy aims at encouraging young Tunisians to enter the workforce in their home country.

Swiss Federal Councillor Simonetta Somaruga signed the accord in Tunis and expressed satisfaction over the two countries' partnership, first signed five years ago. The accord focuses in particular on a support programme for voluntary returns and professional training for undocumented migrants who decide to return to Tunisia. 

Tunisia is not only a departure country but also a transit country for migrants coming from other nearby countries, especially those of Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Over 1,600 asylum seekers returned to Tunisia 

The first agreement between Tunisia and Switzerland to control migrant flows was concluded in the aftermath of the so-called Jasmine Revolution, which sparked a wave of asylum requests from young Tunisians. To stem the problem, the two countries initiated a cooperation programme aimed at encouraging repatriation and supporting professional training courses in Tunisia. Official figures speak of more than 1,600 Tunisian asylum seekers who returned to their home country.

Somaruga, who also met in Tunis with Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem and Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, emphasized that migrants can be a resource. In the course of her visit to Tunis, she met with representatives of international organizations working in Libya and various civil society associations working in migrant support, to which she offered social and legal assistance. 

Romain Darbellay, director of cooperation at the Swiss Embassy in Tunis, said, "Switzerland supports above all the efforts aimed at improving Tunisia's ability to manage migration, in particular very actively helping it to develop a law on asylum that could soon be ratified in parliament".

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