Tunisia’s authoritarian president Kais Saied rejected an EU offer for aid in return for a tighter control on illegal migration.
“Tunisia rejects what the EU announced, not because of the small amount … but because the proposal conflicts with the memorandum of understanding signed in July,” Saied said.
The dispute between the EU and Tunis has coincided with the arrival of record numbers of migrants from Tunisia to Italy’s island of Lampedusa.
According to press reports, Since September 11, Lampedusa has seen a record number of arrivals of makeshift boats from Tunisia. In less than 72 hours, up to 6,800 people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, arrived on the island.
The July deal with the EU included a pledge of 1 billion euros in aid to Tunisia to help its battered economy, rescue state finances and deal with the migration crisis.
However, the bulk or 900 million dollars was to be disbursed as macroeconomic aid dependent on the conclusion of a deal with the IMF.
Tunisia has so far failed to reach a deal with the IMF, further worsening its rating as it risks defaulting on debt payment.
Talks with the IMF have stalled and many analysts fear the deal needs now to be updated in view of changing economic assumptions. But few expect it to be stricken given Tunisian president’s reluctance to accept painful reforms, on top of which a scrap of general subsidies and a reduction of civil servants.
The MoU with the EU was also criticized by the Tunisian civil society and powerful unions. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), said the MoU would transform Tunisia from European ‘border police’ to European ‘prison guard.’
The European commission was also lambasted by members of the European parliament for engaging in a migration deal with President Kais Saied who made xenophobia towards migrants a political capital using theories of the great replacement to stoke anti-migrants acts in his country.
In August, Human Rights Watch said documented abuses against migrants in Tunisia included beatings, use of excessive force, some cases of torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, collective expulsions, dangerous actions at sea, forced evictions, and theft of money and belongings.
Source: The North Africa Post