Up to 25,000 people have emigrated illegally from Tunisia to Europe since the revolution of 2011, a government Minister has confirmed.
Speaking at Chebba within the Mahdia governorate on Sunday, The Secretary of State for Migration, Radhouane Ayari confirmed that anywhere between 22000 and 25000 people had emigrated illegally from Tunisia to Europe in the five years since the revolution. However, Ayari said, recent years had seen the flow of illegal migrants reduced to approximately 800 per year.
Tunisia witnessed an explosion in illegal migration to Europe following the 2011 revolution, as social and political unrest drove many to try and seek better lives abroad, an aim eased by the wholesale reduction in border security following the revolution.
However, according to Ayari, much of this flow has since been stemmed as cooperation between Tunisia and its partner countries in Europe has increased over recent years. The Secretary State for Migration also spoke of the need to restore trust between the Tunisian state and its citizens and the need for robust government measures to give the country’s young, typically the most likely to hazard the crossing to Europe to remain within Tunisia.
According to Head of the Regional Committee of the Red Crescent in Medenine, Mongi Slim, while Tunisians continue to attempt to make the crossing to Europe, the bulk of current migrants leaving from Tunisia come from elsewhere within the region, “Tunisia is a transit country. Consequently, several nationalities coming mainly from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal enter Tunisia legally, so that they can travel to Europe illegally”.
Slim also commented upon the vulnerability of migrants and the risks posed by gangs operating within Tunisia seeking to extract large sums of money in return for the occasionally lethal crossing into Europe.
Further to those arriving in Tunisia directly from sub-Saharan Africa, were those who entered the country via Libya, where, according to Slim, they were often found in shabby clothing and without either money or telephones, signs Slim said of either exploitation or robbery by border gangs.
Illegal immigration from Tunisia to Europe, “Harga” in the Tounsi dialect started to be tracked during the 1990s, after Italy imposed Visa controls on Tunisians entering its territory after ratifying the Schengen agreements in the early 1990s. However, despite the EU Visa requirements, unemployment, the economic disparities between coastal regions and interior zones and social injustices suffered under the Ben Ali continued to drive many young Tunisians to make the journey to Europe.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.