ROME – The European Commission is planning new deals with Tunisia and Egypt later this year, despite long-standing reports of abuse of migrants and refugees in both North African countries, writes a non-governmental organization based in London. State Guard. The plan for these new partnerships is mentioned in an addendum to the letter from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, sent to the European Council before the meeting in October. Last April, the commission announced its intention to establish a “stronger anti-trafficking partnership”, which would include extensive border controls and greater cooperation between police forces. The addendum contains no other details, but specifies that the model to be implemented with Tunisia and Egypt is based on the same scheme already implemented with Morocco, Niger and the Western Balkans.
Mistreatment of migrants in Egypt. Last September, the investigation of Human Rights Watch found that Egyptian authorities had failed to protect refugees and asylum seekers from rampant sexual violence, including failing to investigate rapes and assaults, and that police had subjected immigration activists to “forced physical abuse.” The EU’s report on the state of human rights in Egypt 2022 states that the authorities continue to restrict freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the media, while doubts are growing about the application of the anti-terrorism law to silence critics and dissidents. Cairo Institute for Human Rights – Response State Guard – in August he condemned the state security apparatus that continues to monitor and repress Egyptians with impunity, with little access to participatory democracy.
The situation in Tunisia. It has worsened significantly over the past year, since President Kais Said began cracking down on sub-Saharan Africans in speeches that appeared to lean heavily on the far-right theory of the Great Ethnic Swap. In the annex to von der Leyen’s letter, it is stated that cooperation with Tunisia is already underway, although an anti-smuggling agreement has not been concluded. The new agreements with Egypt and Tunisia add to the EU’s continued support for migration control. Already in July, Brussels signed a memorandum of understanding with Tunisia relating to “macroeconomic stability, economy and trade, green energy, people-to-people contacts, migration and mobility”. Although the Tunisian government returned the 67 million euros agreed last summer, the number of ships sailing from Tunisia has significantly decreased, following increased patrols along the coast and more intensive destruction of intercepted ships.
Departures, money and repression. The repression of the Tunisian state also contributed to the reduction of the number of hopefuls traveling to Italian shores, especially in the port city of Sfax, where the authorities expelled thousands of people from sub-Saharan countries and brought them by bus to the Libyan and Algerian borders. Migrants are forced to cross the border there. These measures have also led to a greater number of refugees already residing in Tunisia turning to voluntary repatriation programs supported byInternational Organization for Migration. Egypt is expected to receive the first of three new patrol boats from the EU in December, €87 million in the second phase of the border management project will be disbursed in the coming months, while Frontex works on an agreement with the Egyptian authorities.
Support for Libya. European Union aid to Libya also continues, despite a United Nations investigation published in early 2023 showing how that aid contributes to crimes against humanity that the North African country is responsible for. An annex to von der Leyen’s letter states that five search and rescue ships have been delivered to the Libyan coast guard this year and that since September 21, more than 10,900 people have been reported as “rescued or intercepted” by Libyan authorities in a total of over 100 operations. The largest groups of migrants, among those stopped, come from Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria”.