Tunisia’s president doubled down on accusations that criminal networks supported the presence of undocumented migrants in the north African country.
His remarks come as local NGOs sounded the alarm over the dire situation of sub-Saharan African migrants expelled from the city of Sfax.
“This immigration is a displacement operation, not a regular immigration. It is supervised by criminal networks that traffic in human beings and organs who aim not only to make money, but also to destabilize the country,” Kais Saied said.
“I’ll say it again: we are Africans, and we are proud of our African identity. But we refuse to be a land of transit or a land of settlement.”
Some stretches of Tunisia’s coastline lie some hundred kilometers away from the Italy.
The head of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) urged Friday for a migration del with Tunisia.
He was on a visit to Sicily, an island some 300 kilometers awar from Lampedusa.
“I’ve seen one of those ships onshore here close by. It’s unbelievable what they do with those migrants and I think if we can agree on proper arrangements between Tunisia in this case and Italy or Europe, I think that would help. But again it’s not my remit. It’s a political decision to do so, but from a professional side, I think it’s important to try whatever we can, and what is allowed within the limits to see how we can prevent people from departing.”
A high-ranking European delegation is due to visit Tunis on Sunday to sign a deal stipulating financial aid for the North African country aimed at tackling illegal migration.
According to Frontex, boat crossings across the central Mediterranean is the main route for irregular migrant entries to Europe.