The number of migrants leaving Tunisia and intercepted in the Mediterranean has more than doubled this year

A consequence of local conflicts shaking the African continent, climate change or a mixture of factors? Nearly 70,000 migrants have been intercepted this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy, more than double for the same period the previous year, a national guard spokesperson said. this Saturday.

Tunisia is, along with Libya, the main departure point for thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe. In 2023, the majority of migrants (82%) were intercepted on the coast near Sfax (center-east), town barely 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusacompared to a figure of 66% for 2022, according to the National Guard.

Over eleven months, the number of candidates for illegal emigration intercepted by the Tunisian authorities stood at 69,963 people compared to 31,297 over the same period of 2022, according to graphs sent by the spokesperson for the national guard, Houcem Eddine Jebabli.

More migrants from sub-Saharan Africa

Of this total, 77.5% (54,224) were foreigners, the majority nationals of sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest Tunisians (15,739), compared to 59% foreign migrants in 2022 (18,363) compared to 12,961 Tunisians.

The departures of migrants accelerated after a speech at the end of February of Tunisian President Kais Saieddenouncing the arrival of “hordes of illegal migrants” from sub-Saharan Africa and attributing their presence to a “criminal plan” aimed at “changing the demographic composition” of his country.

These remarks triggered a violent anti-migrant campaign prompting several African countries (Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea in particular) to repatriate thousands of them, while many others took to the sea at the cost many shipwrecks.

New wave this summer

A new acceleration in the departures of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa occurred this summer after hundreds of them were chased out of Sfax, the scene of a brawl that led to the death of a Tunisian, and taken away by the police in desert areas on the borders with Libya and Algeria in what the UN denounced as “expulsions”. Accusations rejected by the Tunisian authorities.

According to several international humanitarian sources, “at least 5,500 migrants have been expelled towards the border with Libya and more than 3,000 towards that with Algeria since June”, including a large number of migrants who had previously been intercepted at sea or down.

More than 100 migrants died in the Tunisian-Libyan desert during the summer, according to humanitarian sources who indicated that “collective expulsions to Libya and Algeria continue.”

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