“We are returning to period of landings in Lampedusa and of the first barges that used to arrive in Tunisia and were directed to Libya, now they’ve started leaving from here.” Mgr Ilario Antoniazzi, Archbishop of Tunis, voiced his concerns after having learned that a Tunisian military vessel had collided with a boat carrying 70 migrants. The migrant boat sunk and dozens drowned as a result. “The Tunisian route to Italy is being reopened. They are arriving in increasing numbers – he said – It’s a note of warning.”
Are the Italy-Libya migrations agreements having an impact on Tunisia? As it happened after the agreements with Turkey, illegal migration is continuing. You patch a leak… and there’s yet another one. The agreements with Libya may be a positive thing for Italy, but not for the migrants who are there. Indeed, landings in Italy have decreased, but more migrants arrived into Libya. Illegal refugee camps were discovered where migrant people are kept in inhuman conditions.
This is a wake-up call for us. They used to arrive in Tunisia in South Sahara, from where they continued their journey to Libya. Once there, they tried to embark on a boat to Europe with the help of traffickers. Now the opposite is happening: they flee from Libya and arrive in Tunisia because they know that the new agreements make it hard for them to reach Italy. But I doubt that the traffickers whom Italy has reached agreements with are reliable people.
Do they leave from the area of Sfax? There isn’t a fixed place of departure, sometimes it’s in the area of Sfax or it may be in one of the many small ports. They stay there for a while to work and then make arrangements with the fishermen, whom they pay, to leave Tunisia. It’s hard to distinguish a fishermen from the migrants headed to Italy.
The safety conditions of these vessels must be very poor… We are going back to the period of the first landings of migrants in Italy. I’m under the impression that we are re-living the period of the landings in Lampedusa and of makeshift barges.
Many of these “ghost vessels” manage to make illegal landings on the shores off Agrigento (Sicily) or on Lampedusa and Linosa. Is there a danger of terrorist infiltrations? We don’t know anything about those arriving into Italy, this is true. The President of Tunisia granted amnesty to convicts. Now we don’t know if these people have remained in the Country of if they left for Italy. They served their sentence. But we wonder about their conditions when they were released from prison.
Anis Hannadi, the radicalised Tunisian brother of the terrorist who killed two women in Marseilles was arrested in Italy. Tunisia is the smallest country with the highest number of foreign fighters in Syria. They are all Tunisian, and this is alarming. Foreign fighters are not released from prison as easily as other convicts. But the question is: “Are they better people when they get out of prison or are they even more radicalised?” Many of them grew radicalised in European prisons.
How are you preparing for the closure of the Libyan border? We are enforcing controls and we watch what is happening with great concern. Indeed, arrivals have increased. We don’t know if it’s just the beginning or if it’s a temporary situation. But we’re on a state of alert.
The Tunisian Church is mostly composed of Sub-Shararan Africans. Do they all wish to leave the country? Even now there are people who ask to be blessed before their departure. Europe is still seen as a paradise destination..
How can such dangerous departures be stemmed? Rather than setting up refugee camps in Libya it would be necessary to launch a major campaign to spread awareness on the fact that Europe is no longer a paradise destination and that attempting this journey entails very high risks. There is deep ignorance on this subject in many African countries, and they don’t know what will happen once they are in Europe. They think there are job opportunities, but the reality is much different. Many of them sell their property to cover travel costs and after their departure they never return because they are ashamed. They prefer risking their lives rather than returning as defeated, humiliated persons.
Source: Agenzia SIR