The European Union has said “good cooperation” in migration matters with Tunisia has led to a drastic reduction in departures from Tunisia to Europe, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson confirmed on Tuesday, indicating that departures of migrants from this country had fallen sharply but had increased from Libya.

She said over the last two months, there has been a drop of approximately 80–90% in departures from Tunisia”, a country with which the EU signed a partnership with a migration component in July.

These two countries are the main departure points for migrants to Italy, which is seeing a sharp increase in arrivals on its shores.

Ylva Johansson was speaking on the occasion of the holding in Brussels of an “international conference on a global alliance against migrant smuggling,” bringing together representatives of 57 countries.

The Commissioner also presented a revised directive intended to toughen the fight against this trafficking, as well as a regulation to strengthen the role of Europol in this area.

Tunisia was not present at the ministerial level at the conference, said the European Commissioner.

She specified that the drop in departures from the Tunisian coast was due to the reinforced action of the coast guard of this country.

The partnership signed with Tunis, intended among other things to reduce arrivals in the EU of migrants from Tunisia, provides aid of 105 million euros to fight against irregular immigration as well as direct budgetary aid of 150 million euros to this country facing serious economic difficulties.

But President Kais Saied declared in October that he rejected “charity” from the EU and returned, in an unprecedented move, budgetary aid of 60 million euros that had been paid to him by Brussels as part of a separate program of the memorandum of understanding.

This EU-Tunisia partnership is also the target of criticism from NGOs and European parliamentarians, linked in particular to concerns about attacks on the rights of migrants in this country.

Migration tensions are rising on Mediterranean shores as European countries try to limit the arrival of migrants from African shores.

Tunisia has become the main steppingstone to Italy, Europe’s gateway. With that have come deals and accusations of abuse at the hands of Tunisian security forces.

EU deals and financial packages to manage migration with partners such as Libya or Tunisia have seemingly done little to change the underlying dynamics.

By:Isaac Clottey

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