The Tunisian President says no to hosting migrant screening centers
The Tunisian President says no to hosting migrant screening centers

The Tunisian President, Beji Caid Essebsi, has said his country will not host EU refugee reception centers. He also told DW that Tunisia was a safe country, despite a terrorist attack in the capital earlier this week.

President Essebsi made the statement in Berlin, where he attended Chancellor Angela Merkel's African business summit. In an interview with DW's Dima Tarhini, the 91-year-old leader said opening refugee reception centers in countries such as Tunisia was "out of the question."

"Tunisia has much more experience with refugees than many European countries. After the Libyan revolution, more than 1.3 million refugees from various countries streamed into Tunisia. Fortunately, most of them returned to their home countries with our help. Europe has never experienced anything comparable. And we, unlike Europe, do not have the capacities to open reception centers. Every country needs to pull its own weight on this issue."

The European Union wants greater cooperation on migration with North African nations Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Niger and Morocco. Earlier this year, the EU migration commissioner announced a plan for a "regional disembarkation scheme". Under the proposed deal, African countries would host migrant screening centers to process refugee claims. The Tunisian government has already expressed opposition to the idea.

Despite terrorism, a 'safe country'

During President Essebsi's visit to Berlin, a 30-year-old woman blew herself up with a homemade bomb in the Tunisian capital, injuring at least eight people. 

"We thought we had eradicated terrorism, but it turns out that it still exists and that it can strike in the heart of the capital," President Essebsi said in a statement to the press.

The suicide attack led to renewed questions about whether Tunisia should be considered a safe country of origin for asylum seekers.

Tarhini: In Germany, in the context of repatriating asylum-seekers, it has been questioned just how safe Tunisia really is. Tunisia is considered a safe North African country. What is your opinion on this?

Beji Caid Essebsi: "Tunisia is a safe country; that is the truth. It is much safer than many other countries. Regarding refugees and the problem that they pose for Europe and other regions: Tunisia guarantees the freedom of its citizens, no matter what their conduct. If Tunisians abroad do something wrong and are sent back, then we will take them in. But not citizens of other countries.


 

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