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EU, Tunisia sign €1 billion deal to fight illegal migration

July 16, 2023

Leaders from the EU want a "strategic" pact with Tunisian President Kais Saied to stem the flow of migration to Europe. Last month, Brussels pledged more aid to the North African country.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Tunisian President Kais Saied and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni (left to right) shake hands in Tunis
EU leaders praised a 'comprehensive' agreement to tackle the growing problem of irregular migration to the continentImage: Freek van den Bergh/ANP/picture alliance

Top EU politicians traveling to Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding Sunday for "strategic and comprehensive" cooperation between the bloc and the North African country in the fight to stem illegal migration to Europe.

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni accompanied European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the trip to Tunis, the trio's second in a month.

While in Tunis, the delegation held talks with President Kais Saied on how to tackle the growing problem.

The visit was capped by a signing ceremony.

Tensions over sub-Saharan migrants escalate in Tunisia

EU to provide more aid, more funds to help Tunis fight illegal immigration

In June, Meloni, Rutte and von der Leyen met Saied with the promise of up to €900 million ($967.8 million) in aid for the economically strapped country.

At the time, von der Leyen also said the European Commission was committed to supplying a further €105 million in 2023 to curb irregular migration — nearly triple the amount the EU had given Tunisia over the previous two years.

Tunisia's economic woes and high unemployment have prompted scores of citizens to risk their lives trying to reach Europe. The nation, like other countries in the region, has become a launchpad for such journeys.

On Friday, Italy's Ministry of the Interior announced that more than 75,000 migrants had arrived on its shores by boat so far in 2023 — more than double the 31,900 who arrived during that same period in 2022.

Dutch Prime Minister Rutte said the new pact with Tunisia had all "essential measures" to boost efforts against irregular migration.

"It contains agreements on disrupting the business model of people smugglers and human traffickers, strengthening border control and improving registration and return," he wrote on Twitter.

EU, Tunisia looking for a 'holistic approach' to migration

js/dj (dpa, Reuters)