ROME: Italy and Tunisia have pledged to work together to fight illegal immigration, which should include help for Libya which is the top departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe.
This pledge was made during a meeting in Tunis on Wednesday between Antonio Tajani and Matteo Piantedosi, Italy’s ministers of foreign affairs and interior respectively, with their counterparts Othman Jerandi and Taoufik Charfeddine, and Tunisia’s President Kais Saied.
According to Tajani, Saied agreed that “immigration is not only a matter of security but needs a comprehensive answer from the governments.”
“To solve the problem, we need to intervene at the root, with political actions (on) poverty, terrorism and climate change,” Tajani said during an online press conference attended remotely by Arab News.
A source in the Italian Interior Ministry told Arab News later that Tajani and Piantedosi confirmed to their Tunisian counterparts that Italy “wants to play a primary role in this strategy so that the scourge of immigration, as President Saied called it during the meeting, can be defeated.”
“Only by working together will we be able achieve goals. As Tunisia is committed to do its best to solve any problems, we will do our best because this collaboration at every level can be strengthened and can contribute to the solution of the immigration problem (in the) short, medium and long term,” Tajani added.
According to figures released on Wednesday by the Italian Coast Guard in a hearing in the Chamber of Deputies, in 2022 a total of 32,000 migrants reached Italy from Tunisia, more than 60 percent compared to 2021.
Last year, Tunisia counted as the second port of departure, after Libya, for migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa. There were almost 105,000 migrants who arrived on Italy’s shores by crossing the Channel of Sicily in 2022.
Tajani added that the stability of Libya was on the meeting’s agenda.
“It is a very important issue for us, and we will always work together with Tunisia for border security, to solve the immigration problem, also through political agreements in order to reduce the migratory flows from Libya to Tunisia.”
“Even on Libya, Italy and Tunisia are in harmony. We will work together, improving and making even more efforts to solve all the problems we are facing,” Tajani said.
Tajani confirmed Italy’s commitment to continue increasing investments in Tunisia. A business forum will be held on this issue in the next few months.
A further bilateral cooperation in energy, which has benefited from the recent launch of the ELMED strategic infrastructure — a maritime electricity interconnection project between the two shores of the Mediterranean — was also discussed.