A free daily digest of the biggest news stories of the day - and the best features from our website
Thank you for signing up to TheWeek. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
With irregular migration to Europe at a seven-year high, exacerbating a problem that is destabilising the bloc, Brussels is renewing its efforts to close off the sea route from North Africa, said Vivian Yee in The New York Times.
At least 72,000 migrants, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa, have crossed the Mediterranean to front-line countries such as Italy this year. Until March, most set off from war-torn Libya; but now, neighbouring Tunisia is the main departure point, owing to an expansion of its smuggling networks and a perception that it is a safer launchpad for people “dreaming of Europe”. And it’s here that EU leaders hope to “contain the problem”: last week, Brussels pledged to give €100m to Tunisia to crack down on people smuggling and strengthen its borders, as part of a new “Memorandum of Understanding”.
This is a “short-sighted and dangerous” deal, said Bass Bijlsma in Trouw (Amsterdam). Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, is a “dictator” who has suppressed the free press and detained opposition leaders, and who has recently been whipping up hatred against African migrants: in February, he claimed a plot was under way to “change the demographic make-up” of Tunisia, triggering a wave of racist attacks.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
‘Preview of things to come’
This month he went further still, said Luigi Manconi in La Stampa (Turin), ordering his security forces to round up hundreds of African migrants from the port of Sfax, and dump them in the desert without food or water. It’s appalling that the EU – at the behest of the likes of Italy’s hard-right leader Giorgia Meloni and Dutch PM Mark Rutte – is partnering with such a regime. What makes it yet worse is that the deal is highly unlikely to achieve its aims: Tunis is already intimating that it is not willing to act as a reception centre for returned foreign migrants, and it’s worth remembering that a similar EU-backed deal between Italy and Libya, in 2017, led to migrants being detained, exploited, and even tortured; and the boats kept coming.
The EU insists the deal isn’t just about migration, said Gregorio Sorgi and Jacopo Barigazzi on Politico (Brussels). It points to the fact that it has also promised €300m for green energy projects in Tunisia, and €65m for its schools. But these pledges were really just to get Saied onside to tackle migration – and they may offer “a preview of things to come”:
Brussels is now “eager to strike similar deals” with Morocco and Egypt. Yes, they’ll be controversial, but to Brussels they represent the best hope of easing what risks becoming an existential crisis for the EU.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.