Italy puts pressure on Tunisia to control wave of migrants

Illegal migrants are seen on a boat after being rescued by the Tunisian navy off the coast near Ben Guerdane, Tunisia. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Italy puts pressure on Tunisia to control wave of migrants

  • Large numbers are creating problems for Italy's health system 

ROME: Italy is putting political pressure on Tunisia after a recent wave of migrants arrived on its southern shores and islands.

Italian authorities are struggling to manage migrant numbers on the island of Lampedusa, which is 100 miles from the Tunisian coast, transferring hundreds of migrants on ferries to the mainland daily.

They said the huge numbers arriving in packed dinghies and small boats across the channel of Sicily also carried a risk of COVID-19.

“We have at least 1,000 people every day staying there,” the mayor of Lampedusa Salvatore Martello told Arab News. “Those poor people live in terrible conditions, especially with the heatwave we had in the past few days.”

While in the past the main departure point from north Africa was Libya, most immigrants now reach Italy from Tunisia.

Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, speaking to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, said the country now had “an uncontrolled flow” from Tunisia that was creating serious problems for the health system. It affected local communities living near hosting centers from where Tunisian migrants in particular tried to escape before the end of the mandatory quarantine period in place to contain the spread of coronavirus.

As of July 24, 5,237 out of the 11,191 migrants who landed in Italy in 2020 came from Tunisia, according to official data. They included nearly 4,000 Tunisian citizens.

“The difficult political situation in Tunisia has been encouraging people to flee from that country to reach Europe,” Marta Grande, chairman of the Foreign Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News. “Instability can boost emigration from that country and weaken controls by local authorities. It is a fact and we have to cope with that.”

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio decided to postpone discussions on allocating funds of 6.5 million euros ($7.6 million) to Tunisia if it did not show a “real commitment” to preventing uncontrolled migratory flows.

"We are all perfectly conscious of the importance of cooperation for development toward some countries in order to prevent uncontrolled migratory flows, but in this phase we are asking Tunisia, a country which is considered as a ‘safe port’ for migrants, for clarification regarding an increase of arrivals to Italy,” Di Maio said in a press conference proposing an agreement on migrants to the Tunisian government. “It's good to have a 360-degree approach on the issue, it must be mainly focused on prevention of illegal emigration from that country. We must make sure that illegal migrants do not leave that country. Tunisia must increase patrols, especially in the area of ​​Sfax, from where most of the boats leave. Italy cannot afford a new wave of migrants. We cannot lower the guard.”

Regional authorities in Sicily blame migrants for the recent increase of COVID-19 infection cases on the island and a ferry is going to be deployed off the coast of Lampedusa in the next few days to hold migrants in quarantine before they reach the mainland.


New Zealand records 100 days without domestic virus case but warns against complacency

Updated 28 min 11 sec ago

New Zealand records 100 days without domestic virus case but warns against complacency

  • New Zealanders have returned to normal life, but authorities are concerned that people were now refusing testing
  • New Zealand has 23 active cases in managed isolation facilities, and 1,219 COVID-19 cases in all so far

WELLINGTON: New Zealand marked 100 days without a domestic transmission of the coronavirus on Sunday, but warned against complacency as countries like Vietnam and Australia which once had the virus under control now battle a resurgence in infections.
New Zealand’s successful fight against COVID-19 has made the Pacific island nation of 5 million one of the safest places in the world right now.
New Zealanders have returned to normal life, but authorities are concerned that people were now refusing testing, not using the government contact tracing apps, and even ignoring basic hygiene rules.
“Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone, however, as we all know, we can’t afford to be complacent,” Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said.
“We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand,” he said.
New Zealand has 23 active cases in managed isolation facilities, and 1,219 COVID-19 cases in all so far.
Vietnam, which went for three months without detecting any domestic transmission, is now racing to control a new outbreak in Danang.
Neighbouring Australia’s second-biggest city, Melbourne, has gone into a six week lockdown due to a surge in cases. The second wave of cases in Melbourne has been largely a result of lapses in quarantining.
“For countries like Australia and New Zealand the source of such outbreaks is likely to be from managed isolation and quarantine facilities because of the large numbers of people held there and the multiple shifts of staff involved in looking after them,” said Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago.
There have been cases of returning New Zealanders sneaking out of quarantine, and other security slip ups.
New Zealand last week ramped up testing at quarantine facilities and clinics, and started work on technology to track people using Bluetooth technology.
Ardern kicked off her re-election campaign on Saturday calling it a ‘Covid election’.
But a resurgence of cases due to “Covid fatigue” could spark a backlash against her, and give the opposition a chance to work their way back into the election contest. (Repotring by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)