ROME: Tunisian President Kais Saied reiterated his country’s commitment to combating illegal migration and has thanked Italy for its donation of some 1.5 million coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses, in addition to five containers of equipment to help the country fight the pandemic.
On Sunday night, Saied symbolically received the vaccine donation in a ceremony he attended with the Ambassador of Italy to Tunisia Lorenzo Fanara, in which he hailed bilateral relations and renewed Tunisia’s commitment against illegal migration in the Mediterranean.
A communiqué from the Tunisian presidency said that the president expressed his eagerness to “protect rights and liberties and bolster the pillars of security and stability” and affirmed his country’s stance against illegal migration, human trafficking and smuggling. He also warned against politically exploiting this issue during such a “delicate” time as the country is currently experiencing.
Sources in the Embassy of Italy in Tunisia told Arab News that Saied “remains keen to continue bilateral cooperation in accordance with all the agreements made on both sides regarding the issue of migration in the past years.”
The arrival of migrants to the island of Lampedusa continues, meanwhile, due to good sea conditions.
On Monday, the Tunisian Coast Guard informed that 11 operations to counter illegal migration were carried out over the weekend, with 188 migrants aboard various boats stopped in different regions of the country.
The Tunisian Ministry of Interior said in a communiqué issued after the ceremony with President Saied and the Italian ambassador that 56 of the people stopped came from African countries but did not specify their nationalities.
Eleven of them were already wanted for repeatedly trying to reach Italian and European shores illegally.
“They can say what they want, but most of them are Tunisians from Tunisia,” Rev. Michele Giordano from Caritas in Sicily told Arab News.
“The activity of the Tunisian security forces to counter migration from that country probably comes as a response to the interview Ennahda party leader and Speaker of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi gave on Saturday to Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. In that interview, Ghannouchi warned that European countries would face an unprecedented wave of migration if they did not help his movement,” Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, member of the foreign affairs committee in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News.
“I do not see any other reason why they should let everyone know that in recent days the Tunisian National Guard prevented hundreds from crossing the Mediterranean illegally. This kind of information seems to contradict the increasing number of landings from Tunisia in Lampedusa and on the southern shores of Sardinia,” he added.
Only on Sunday, around 200 people arrived in Lampedusa. After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of the tiny island’s port. Over 1,200 migrants are still staying in the facility, however, which is designed to accommodate no more than 250.