Tunisia: Italian Court Suspends Patrol Boat Transfers Due to Rights Concerns

by | Jun 27, 2024 | Economic, Political, Security, Tunisia


On Thursday, 20 June 2024, the Italian Council of State issued a precautionary suspension of patrol boat transfers to Tunisia after various NGOs signed a petition to block the transfers. The organizations claimed that supplying Tunisia with boats would result in more expulsions by Tunisian security forces which have drawn scrutiny in recent months. 

The decision sparked protests from conservative Italian political voices who saw the legal decision as defying the government’s policy to ensure Tunisia has adequate naval resources to intercept irregular migrants and human smugglers. The court decisions came a day after Tunisia officially establishment its maritime search and rescue zone (SAR). 

The Italian courts’ decision regarding the patrol boat deliveries will be held until 11 July when a final court decision will be made. 


European and Tunisian NGOs will likely continue to contest the cooperation between Italy and Tunisia on security operations to intercept irregular migrants as concerns remain in the EU regarding how the human rights of migrants will be protected during and following such operations. 

While Tunisian political leaders have been unwavering in their insistence that Tunisia will not serve as the EU’s border guard, the security assistance and various tangential investments remain tantalizing. While this cooperation reflects the EU’s externalization of its border security to North African countries, hardware, training, and investment in Tunisia’s security apparatus will likely continue to bring Tunisia to the table with the EU as the migration challenge evolves. 

At present, tension with European and Tunisian NGOs has largely been contained, particularly in Tunisia where civil society activists have remained on the defense for months in the face of arrests and legal actions. While coordinated legal and social pressure from civil society could theoretically disrupt Tunisia’s expanding security partnership with Italy, this appears unlikely in the short-term. 


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