Surging number of Tunisian immigrants attempt to cross Mediterranean - Tunis News
by IANS | Updated Sep 21, 2022
More Tunisians are taking the risk of travelling across the Mediterranean, one of the world's most dangerous routes for immigrants, as a result of a confluence of economic and social reasons, including high unemployment and financial difficulties, reports Xinhua news agency.
Irregular immigration to Europe from or through Tunisia is not a new phenomenon.
Since the 1990s, the North African country has emerged as a key transit hub for immigrants from Africa and the Middle East due to its long coastline and proximity to Europe.
At least 33,761 immigrants have reportedly died or gone missing between 2000 and 2017 while seeking to cross the Mediterranean, making the route one of the deadliest journeys for immigrants, according to the UN.
Tunisia has been mired in a prolonged economic crisis. Inflation rose for 11 consecutive months to 8.6 per cent in August, the highest record since September 1991.
The unemployment rate stands at around 18.5 per cent, while among young people it is over 40 per cent, official statistics show.
The growth in the number of illegal immigrants gained pace this year after the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated a trend that existed before its outbreak in the country in early 2020.
The number of immigrants intercepted in the first half of 2022 is "well above the levels recorded during the same period in 2021", according to a report published by the Geneva-based Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC).
On September 13, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) reported that more than 13,000 illegal immigrants have landed in Italy since January 2022.
In 2021, the Italian authorities intercepted nearly 10,000 children who arrived illegally, including 2,700 Tunisian nationals, International Organization for Migration's Chief of Mission for Tunisia Azzouz Samri said on Monday.
According to the FTDES, Tunisia's rise in immigration since 2020 marks "a new peak" after what happened around the so-called "Arab Spring", when a collapse in border control resulted in massive numbers of Tunisians leaving the country.
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