Senior Italian and European Union officials hold talks in Tunisia on Monday to try to contain the growing number of migrants crossing from the North African country into Europe.
The number of migrants leaving Tunisia has increased fivefold this year compared to last year, for a total of about 5,700 people, according to an estimate by the Tunisian Economic and Social Rights Forum, a support group that monitors migration flows.
More migrants arriving in Italy now come from Tunisia than those departing from neighboring Libya, according to Italian government data released on Saturday. A total of 16,347 migrants have reached the Italian shores in the last year, an increase of 149% compared to the previous 12-month period, but well below many other recent years.
The Italian ministers Luciana Lamorgese, for the interior, and Luigi Di Maio, for the exterior; as well as European Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson and European Neighborhood Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi were scheduled to meet with Tunisian President Kais Saied and other top Tunisian officials on Monday.
Lamorgese, who visited Tunisia just two weeks ago for similar talks, said the aim of the trip is to foster Europe’s solidarity with Tunisia.
The Tunisian president said he wants to broaden the migration debate with Italy to make it more European, according to the official TAP news agency.
“Now is the time to act together to contain (migratory) pressure and attack the root causes… to help change young people’s perception of their reality and their country, and give them hope for a better life in their own country, rather than venturing into an unknown future, ”Saied said in a statement.