Tunisian authorities blocked 7,000 Tunisians and nearly 9,000 foreigners from crossing the Mediterranean so far in 2022, according to a government official.
Tunisian authorities blocked "1,509 attempts to reach Europe illegally" between the start of the year and August 23, National Guard spokesman Houssemeddine Jebabli announced on Thursday (August 25), according to reports by news site Businessnews.
According to Jebabli, "299 human traffickers (including 11 foreigners) were arrested, with 150 charged with aiding and abetting (migration)."
Migrants stopped from reaching Europe
Jebabli said that monitoring operations on the coast stopped 7,000 Tunisians and 8,700 foreigners from managing to reach Europe from Tunisia's coasts since the beginning of the year.
The National Guard spokesman also claimed that 388 people wanted by the authorities, including 54 alleged extremists, were arrested on boats in the Mediterranean.
Entire Tunisian families -- including women and small children -- have recently attempted the dangerous crossing to Europe, something previously seen more among nationals of sub-Saharan countries, according to Jebabli, as reported by Businessnews. He also said that many people with university degrees and employment were among those trying to reach Europe.
Tunisian migrants in Italy: 20% of sea arrivals
Tunisia accounts for a large number of migrant arrivals in Europe -- namely Italy -- via the Central Mediterranean. Tunisians are the largest national group among those who arrived on Italian shores so far this year -- they made up roughly 20% of sea arrivals, according to recent statements from the Italian interior ministry.
Italy and the European Union are known to provide financial support to Tunisian authorities with the aim of curbing irregular migration to Europe.
While Tunisia has a better human rights record than Libya -- the other main North African transit country for Europe-bound migrants that receives EU funds to stem migrant departures -- Amnesty International recently warned of a severe lack of human rights and regression of freedom in Tunisia.