One dead as Tunisia security forces arrest migrants

A migrant died as Tunisian security forces clashed with a group of Tunisians and Africans embarking on a clandestine sea crossing to Italy. (File photo / AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
0

One dead as Tunisia security forces arrest migrants

TUNIS: A migrant died early Friday as Tunisian security forces clashed with a group of Tunisians and Africans embarking on a clandestine sea crossing to Italy, a security official said.
The police intervened to stop a boat that had been launched off the coast of the central city of Sfax at around 2:30 am (0130 GMT), said Tunisia’s National Guard spokesman Houssemeddine Jebabli.
He said passengers on the vessel had thrown Molotov cocktails at security forces before setting fire to the boat and attempting to flee.
Four Tunisians were arrested along with eight migrants from the Ivory Coast and two from Congo, he said, adding that one of them was hospitalized for burns without specifying which one.
A 15th passenger was found dead, and operations were underway to find any other bodies from the boat.
A growing number of Tunisians are embarking on risky journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to seek work and a better life in Europe.
In the first half of 2018, nearly 2,660 people were arrested in Tunisia during attempts to make the crossing, Jebabli said, compared with just 564 over the same period the previous year.
Several deadly shipwrecks have taken place in recent months, including one on June 3 that killed 87 people.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
0

Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.