Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi on May 15 met in Tunis with his counterpart Kamel Feki and with Tunisian President Kais Saied to discuss migration flows from Tunisia.
Aid, assistance, support in intelligence activities and joint repatriation programs to stop migrant trafficking and to stem the influx of irregular arrivals were on the agenda of a meeting in Tunis between Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, his local counterpart Kamel Feki and Tunisian President Kais Saied.
The leaders discussed the challenges posed by the steady flow of departures from Tunisia, which has become key country of transit for thousands of people who attempt to cross the central Mediterranean to reach the coasts of Sicily and Calabria, in southern Italy.
The bilateral meeting between Piantedosi and Feki, which follows a visit to Tunis on April 27 of European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, is a further step in the collaboration process with Italy, the first point of arrival in the European Union for migrants and refugees departing from the North African country.
Training of personnel and cutters to provide support
Meanwhile, a joint mission announced a few months ago with France and Germany has been postponed for the time being.
The training of personnel and new vessels could be the essence of new aid pledged so far to Tunisia. As previously done with Libya, cutters could be given to Tunisia, if requested, as well as drones to help the country patrol its coasts.
In addition, Italy and other countries could also provide personnel to train local security forces to be deployed at the border while a more intense collaboration could be implemented in investigations against trafficking.
The Maghreb country is a country of transit for those wishing to cross the Mediterranean, mainly refugees from Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Syria, Morocco and Burkina Faso.
Since the start of the year, the number of arrivals in Italy has grown to the point of inducing Premier Giorgia Meloni to declare a state of national emergency: a total of over 45,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy's coasts, including 25,000 through Tunisia's route, although only 3,000 were Tunisian citizens.
Piantedosi said during his visit to Tunis that local authorities have tried to stem the flow of departures.
Cooperation on voluntary repatriations and legal pathways
"Tunisia has carried out a relevant effort to patrol maritime and land borders to fight migrant trafficking networks, to seize their boats, to rescue migrants at sea and to take them back to the mainland, providing assistance", said Piantedosi, who met for the first time with Fekih, who was appointed interior minister on March 18 after his predecessor Taoufik Charfeddine stepped down.
Efforts to boost security, however, will be implemented together with joint programs for assisted voluntary repatriations from Tunisia to the countries of origin of migrants.
Cooperation will also concern so-called regular flows, with the activation of legal pathways of migration to Italy for education and work, as well as for vulnerable people in need of international protection.
Meanwhile Europe continues to support the implementation of reforms in Tunisia, a country rocked by a turbulent crisis. The European Union should provide a first instalment of 110 million euros in aid, knowing changes will be gradual and cannot be immediate.