Tunisia: Despite Public Tension, EU Migration Assistance is Flowing

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Diplomacy, Political, Security, Social, Tunisia


In early November 2023, a German-language media outlet reported that, despite a public feud between European Union (EU) and Tunisian leaders over the implementation of a migration deal signed in July, EU assistance has been arriving in Tunisia and is helping to taper arrivals in Europe. 

Despite the public fallout resulting in Tunisia returning a large sum of aid money and refusing to attend an EU development summit, the EU has delivered equipment and spare parts to allow the continued operation of Tunisian Coast Guard vessels. The EU has also delivered IT equipment, radar systems, and thermal imaging cameras, all under the framework of adding capacity to Tunisia’s border management programs. 

There is also increased coordination and participation by Tunisia in the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC). And Tunisia has sent liaison officers to Italy to coordinate migration-related activities. 

The report notes that despite public disagreements about implementation of the agreement, a massive decline in seas arrivals in Italy has been observed. Arrivals peaked at 25,673 in August and fell to 19,168 in September followed by an even further drop to under 10,000 in October. 


While EU and Tunisian leaders appear to have reached a stalemate in their negotiations over implementation of the July assistance deal, EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has reported progress to EU MEPs on disbursement of aid. 

With the delivery of technical equipment and an increase in Coast Guard vessel maintenance activities, the Tunisian government has been able to maintain frequent patrols. Combined with large-scale operations to disrupt human smuggling activity around Sfax, established irregular migration routes have been notably disrupted.  

The large drop in arrivals in Italy likely speaks to the effectiveness of EU aid as well as a slowdown in irregular sea crossings as the summer ends and the weather on the Mediterranean Sea becomes much colder and far less predictable.


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