Tunisia: Brussels Shooting Fuels EU Migration Debate

by | Oct 16, 2023 | Diplomacy, Political, Security, Social, Tunisia


On 16 October 2023, a Tunisian asylum seeker in Belgium shot and killed two Swedish soccer fans, attributing the attack to his affiliation with the Islamic State and the burning of the Koran in Sweden. The shooter was shot and killed by Belgian police the following morning. 

The shooter, identified as Abdelsalem Lassoued, had reportedly been in Europe since 2011 after arriving via smugglers boat on the Italian island of Lampedusa. His asylum applications had been rejected in multiple countries around Europe and he had run-ins with law enforcement in multiple countries. 

The Belgian Justice Minister, Vincent van Quickenborne, announced his resignation in light of revelations that Belgium had failed to respond to an extradition request for the shooter by the Tunisian government. Other Belgian officials acknowledged that a lack of inter-EU information sharing regarding the shooter contributed to his ability to remain in Europe illegally and eventually conduct the attack. 

The shooter has become part of the argument used by Europeans pressing for greater control over the arrival, admission, and tracking of irregular migrants as they enter Europe. The attack in Brussels has been compared with the December 2016 attack at a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 and was also carried out by a Tunisian asylum seeker. 



The attack in Brussels will add to the already growing pressure from many European leaders and citizens to make irregular migration more difficult. 

This attack, in particular, highlights the weaknesses in the current asylum process, including enforcing the decisions reached regarding admission and the sharing of security-related information between EU member states. 

This could translate into a greater willingness for Europe to lean into providing migration-related assistance to Tunisia and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa in order to more proactively address the issue before irregular migrants arrive at EU borders. 


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