Tunisia and the European Union signed a “strategic and comprehensive partnership” agreement on Sunday, July 16, to control the movement of migrants and asylum seekers.
Every year, thousands of people cross the Mediterranean to seek asylum and refugee status in Europe. However, the EU has increasingly refused to admit them, calling them irregular migrants. The EU has signed agreements with countries such as Libya and Turkey to stop these migrants and deport them back to their countries of origin, sometimes in complete violation of the UN Convention on Refugees and other human rights laws.
The deal was announced during the visit of the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Tunisia. She was accompanied by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. This was their second visit to Tunisia in a little over a month.
The EU promised a $1 billion “aid package” to Tunisia last month. On Sunday, von der Leyen announced the allocation of around $200 million, of which around $112 million will be used for the border control mechanism, and the rest to strengthen Tunisia’s economy, education, and energy sectors.
The opposition in Tunisia, including the Workers Party, has alleged that the government of President Kais Saied is trying to convert the country into the EU’s border guard.
The condition of migrants in Tunisia has worsened since February when Saied said migration was part of a conspiracy to bring about demographic change. On July 3, hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants were forced out of the country’s second biggest city, Sfax, following the death of a Tunisian man during clashes that took place there.