EU Provides 127M Euros Aid Amid Lampedusa Crisis in Tunisia

The European Commission announced on Friday the first round of payments under the controversial memorandum of understanding between the EU and Tunisia.

The European Commission will release nearly 127 million euros in the coming weeks to support Tunisia’s fragile economy and curb the irregular departures of migrants.

The disbursements come amid growing political pressure from the Italian government as it struggles to manage a new influx of asylum seekers on the island of Lampedusa.

More than 10,000 migrants arrived in a few days from Tunisia on the small island. The Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, visited the site on Sunday.

During this visit, the German official unveiled a ten-point action plan and pledged to accelerate the payment of funds provided under the controversial memorandum of understanding signed in July with Tunis.’

The new envelope is divided into two parts: 60 million euros for budgetary aid and nearly 67 million euros for migration aid.

The portion devoted to the Tunisian budget will be directly sent to the Tunisian Treasury in order to avoid a financial collapse of the country in crisis. The Commission fears that the collapse scenario would push more migrants to European shores.

Furthermore, the envelope of 67 million euros intended for immigration combines two sources:

• 24.7 million euros from a financial instrument adopted in 2022

• 42 million euros from the 105 million euros package included in the memorandum of understanding to fight against smugglers, strengthen border management and accelerate the return of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected .

The 67 million euros will be split between the Tunisian coast guard and navy, which will receive search and rescue vessels, thermal cameras, radars and other surveillance equipment. Humanitarian organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), will also receive these funds.

“We will have different implementing partners,” a Commission spokeswoman said on Friday afternoon, “contracts are currently being developed.”

Since its signing, the EU-Tunisia MoU has become the target of strong criticism and media scrutiny, with a particular focus on fundamental rights.

Tunisia is accused of human rights violations and collective expulsions of migrants, some of whom were found abandoned in the middle of the desert, near the Libyan border.

Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed also made racist remarks about asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa. He denounced what he called a “criminal plan aimed at changing the composition of Tunisia’s demographic landscape.” The remarks echo the far-right conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement.

The European Ombudsman formally asked the Commission last week to clarify how the agreement will guarantee respect for fundamental rights by Tunisian forces during their operations to reduce irregular migratory flows.

“As part of the (memorandum), the EU and Tunisia have agreed to cooperate in full respect of the principles of international law and respect for the dignity of migrants,” said the Commission spokesperson when she was asked about financial guarantees.

“The contracts will now be signed. But, generally speaking, EU contracts always include normative human rights clauses.”

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