Migrants, Rome's plan to unblock the loan to Tunis and overcome the US veto - Corriere.it

Migrants, Rome's plan to unblock the loan to Tunis and overcome the US veto - Corriere.it

Of Rinaldo Frignani

That's 1.9 billion from the IMF. Piantedosi visiting in April. Tajani: "We need to address the issue very quickly because it is a country close to financial collapse"

Since the beginning of the year, more than 12,000 migrants have already departed from Tunisia and landed on the Italian coast. Nine times those of the same period of 2022. A wave that promises to be worse than last year, with 32,000 refugees who have reached our country following the same route: +60% compared to 2021, with around 18,000 people they immediately declared Tunisian as their nationality, while another 14,000 came from sub-Saharan countries. Today the percentage is more than reversed, with 90% of landed migrants originating from Central Africa. In just a few months, with data in hand, Tunisia has turned into a mostly uncontrolled transit point: in the last 48 hours alone, 3,000 people have arrived in Italy aboard at least 60 boats that set sail from Sfax, Kerkenna, Madhia, Soussa, Chebba and Zawia. There have been shipwrecks, deaths and rescues. The situation is escalating.

"Take action immediately"

This is why the migration dossier is at the top of the list of priorities in relations between Italy and Tunisia. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani recalled this just yesterday: «We need to tackle the issue very quickly because it is a country close to financial collapse, we risk having tens and tens of thousands of migrants abandoning Tunisia. It would be a huge problem, with so many people who would put their lives at risk – he added -. We must intervene immediately with funding from the International Monetary Fund and Europe".

Fund node

The question is very delicate. Italy, currently the leading commercial partner (it has in fact overtaken France), is supporting Tunis in the negotiations with the IMF for a loan of 1.9 billion euros. Our country has already confirmed budget support of 50 million euros, plus a credit line of another 55 million in favor of small and medium-sized Tunisian enterprises. But the path is not easy and above all it must be concluded quickly: it is estimated that if the agreement does not go through, the financial resources of the North African state would have an autonomy of 6-9 months. And with over 900,000 refugees ready to leave, including Tunisians also belonging to the middle class of the population, the scenario would be worse.

EU intervention

After the latest summit between Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron, the Commissioner for Internal Affairs of the European Union Ylva Johansson will travel to Tunis at the end of April with the Interior Ministers Matteo Piantedosi and his French and German counterparts, Gerald Darmanin and Annalena Baerbock, to try to plan a joint management of the massive arrival of migrants. There is much expectation on the result of the mission, although in recent weeks Paris is about to approve a much stricter law against illegal immigration, which provides for immediate repatriations for those who represent a threat to public order (but also the regularization of workers foreigners in sectors now in difficulty).

The US against

But without the release of the maxi funding from the IMF - this is Italy's conviction - Tunisia will go nowhere. Firmly contrasting it is the American position: Washington's decision weighs above all on the consideration of the latest moves and the authoritarian turn of President Kais Saied, who at the end of February targeted sub-Saharan migrants, denouncing "a criminal plan to change the demographic composition of Tunisia: there are some individuals - he said - who have received large sums of money to give them residency. Their presence is a source of violence, crimes and unacceptable acts, it is time to put an end to all this because there is the will to make Tunisia only an African country and not a member of the Arab and Islamic world".

Unprecedented wave

"Racist" words for the African Union, which led to an immediate hunt for the black man. In short, the US believes that Saied's turn is a dictatorial turn that undermines his reliability. Complicating matters are Tunis's criticisms of Josep Borrell, head of European foreign policy, who had sounded the alarm about the risks of an unprecedented wave of migrants, as well as the increasingly strong influences of China and Russia in the Village. On the other hand, Tajani himself, in his recent contacts with the secretary of state Antony Blinken and with the director of the IMF Kristalina Georgeva, has proposed the risk of a "Libyan scenario" in the event of the collapse of Tunis.

Rome's interests

After all, Italy is now on the front line to save Tunisia from the abyss. Prime Minister Meloni also reiterated the need for immediate internal reforms to unblock those indispensable funds in an interview with her counterpart Najla Bouden. Over 900 Italian companies, with around 70,000 employees, work today on the other side of the Strait of Sicily. There are common projects in the field of work, tourism, culture and safety. But Elmed is also at stake, the submarine electricity connection of Terna and Steg (Société Tunisienne de l'Electricité et du Gaz) which will arrive in Castelvetrano (Trapani), with an investment of 850 million euros. The start of construction in 2024 is more than close.

March 25, 2023 (change March 25, 2023 | 22:22)

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