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Illegal migration heavily strains Tunisian economy, say experts

Illegal migration heavily strains Tunisian economy, say experts
14 Nov 2023 10:59


The Tunisian National Guard recovered seven bodies, one of which was an infant, and apprehended 862 migrants during migration operations that started from the central coasts, and in particular, Sfax. 

Among the captured migrants who were apprehended on Monday, 824 are from countries south of the Sahara, while 38 others are Tunisians, according to a statement by the National Guard Administration. Security authorities also arrested 24 people involved in human smuggling and their intermediaries and seized a sea vessel and 24 boats used in irregular migration operations.

Maritime patrols are conducted daily on the Tunisian coasts, which are the main platforms that migrants use to reach the nearby Italian coasts. Political analysts warn of the serious consequences of the continued irregular migration through Tunisia in light of the country’s critical economic and financial situation.

They consider that the best way to tackle this crisis is to start from the source of the migrants’ departure, such as countries south of the Sahara and the African coast. Moreover, they demand that all European parties and transit countries join efforts to find permanent solutions through developmental efforts that attract migrants to stay in their countries.

Tunisian political analyst Monzer Thabet notes that Tunisia sees migration towards the European coasts, especially the Italian ones, particularly from migrants coming from countries south of the Sahara. More than 12,000 migrants were apprehended on the land borders, and there are significant efforts by security forces to limit migration, but the cost is high in terms of housing, food, and treatment.

Thabet explained to Aletihad that Tunisia is going through a difficult economic situation and needs support, especially after the suspension of the agreement with the European Union to reduce the influx of illegal migrants. It is necessary to resume negotiations on a new basis and agenda, especially as the migration flow still pushes thousands of migrants towards Europe through Tunisia.

He pointed out that the current approach involves dismantling illegal migration networks by apprehending boats and vessels that facilitate the transfer of migrants, identifying financial resources used to fund these operations, and identifying intermediaries.

Dr. Khaled Obeid, an academic and political analyst, said that Tunisia faces significant consequences due to illegal migration, which causes considerable concern for the Tunisian government, especially since the economic situation is difficult. Consequently, the phenomenon has greatly intensified recently, leading to substantial financial and economic drainage.

Obeid told Aletihad that illegal migration has obvious political implications, as it exacerbates social tensions, prompting the Tunisian authorities to seek both security and non-security measures in an attempt to contain the phenomenon.

He warned that there is no way to confront the issue, as it extends beyond Tunisia. Everyone, especially the affected countries, must look for real solutions within the countries from where migration starts, the political analyst added.

This can be achieved through plans that enable development, thereby stabilising migrants in their own homelands. The Tunisian academic pointed out that Tunisia refused 127 million euros from the European Union to help reduce irregular migration. They argue that the amount is very modest, considering the cost of housing migrants, as well as the cost of logistical and technical equipment, such as maritime vessels.

Thus, the proposed amount does not cover the exorbitant cost and needs to be revised, he said. 
The amount Tunisia seeks comes within the framework of partnership with the European Union, and there are memorandums of understanding that should reflect joint action and mutual interests, the expert added.

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