TUNIS, September 16 (Reuters) – Tunisian authorities, with the support of aircraft and anti-terrorism units, conducted a significant operation on Saturday aimed at combatting people smuggling in the coastal region of Sfax. This area is a critical departure point for migrants embarking on journeys to Europe. The operation, ordered by President Kais Saied, unfolded as the Italian island of Lampedusa grapples with a record influx of boat migrants arriving from North Africa.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Tunisian National Guard units carried out raids on homes housing numerous migrants, intercepted trucks transporting migrants toward the beaches, and seized vessels used by smugglers. This comprehensive effort involved planes, police dogs, military vehicles, and hundreds of police officers deployed in the towns of Jebiniana, Kerkennah, Msatria, and Sfax, the capital of the governorate.
National Guard Colonel Houssem Jbebli explained, “The air operation is intended to target smugglers who exploit the desperation of vulnerable people.” President Saied initiated this crackdown in response to the “unacceptable influx of migrants,” as stated by the Interior Ministry.
Tunisia faces substantial pressure from Italy and the European Union, which has pledged 1 billion euros of EU funds to assist Tunisia’s struggling economy in exchange for curbing the migrant flow.
Over the past few days, approximately 7,000 individuals arriving from North Africa on boats have landed on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, prompting pleas for assistance from the island’s mayor. In total, Italian interior ministry data shows that around 126,000 boat migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, nearly double the figure recorded in the same period in 2022.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called on Friday for the European Union to take joint action, including a possible naval mission, to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.