• Fewer boat crossings, visit to Frontex : EU and Tunisia implement migration pact

    Despite an alleged repayment of funds for migration defence, Tunisia is cooperating with the EU. Fewer refugees are also arriving across the Mediterranean – a decrease by a factor of seven.

    In June, the EU Commission signed an agreement on joint migration control with Tunisia. According to the agreement, the government in Tunis will receive €105 million to monitor its borders and “combat people smuggling”. Another €150 million should flow from the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) in the coming years for the purposes of border management and countering the “smuggling” of migrants.

    Tunisia received a first transfer under the agreement of €67 million in September. The money was to finance a coast guard vessel, spare parts and marine fuel for other vessels as well as vehicles for the Tunisian coast guard and navy, and training to operate the equipment. Around €25 million of this tranche was earmarked for “voluntary return” programmes, which are implemented by the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organisation for Migration.

    However, a few weeks after the transfer from Brussels, the government in Tunis allegedly repaid almost the entire sum. Tunisia “does not accept anything resembling favours or alms”, President Kais Saied is quoted as saying. Earlier, the government had also cancelled a working visit by the Commission to implement the agreement.

    Successes at the working level

    Despite the supposed U-turn, cooperation on migration prevention between the EU and Tunisia has got off the ground and is even showing initial successes at the working level. Under the agreement, the EU has supplied spare parts for the Tunisian coast guard, for example, which will keep “six ships operational”. This is what Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote last week to MEPs who had asked about the implementation of the deal. Another six coast guard vessels are to be repaired by the end of the year.

    In an undated letter to the EU member states, von der Leyen specifies the equipment aid. According to the letter, IT equipment for operations rooms, mobile radar systems and thermal imaging cameras, navigation radars and sonars have been given to Tunisia so far. An “additional capacity building” is to take place within the framework of existing “border management programmes” implemented by Italy and the Netherlands, among others. One of these is the EU4BorderSecurity programme, which among other things provides skills in sea rescue and has been extended for Tunisia until April 2025.

    The Tunisian Garde Nationale Maritime, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre benefit from these measures. This MRCC has already received an EU-funded vessel tracking system and is to be connected to the “Seahorse Mediterranean” network. Through this, the EU states exchange information about incidents off their coasts. This year Tunisia has also sent members of its coast guards to Italy as liaison officers – apparently a first step towards the EU’s goal of “linking” MRCC’s in Libya and Tunisia with their “counterparts” in Italy and Malta.

    Departures from Tunisia decrease by a factor of seven

    Since the signing of the migration agreement, the departures of boats with refugees from Tunisia have decreased by a factor of 7, according to information from Migazin in October. The reason for this is probably the increased frequency of patrols by the Tunisian coast guard. In August, 1,351 people were reportedly apprehended at sea. More and more often, the boats are also destroyed after being intercepted by Tunisian officials. The prices that refugees have to pay to smugglers are presumably also responsible for fewer crossings; these are said to have risen significantly in Tunisia.

    State repression, especially in the port city of Sfax, has also contributed to the decline in numbers, where the authorities have expelled thousands of people from sub-Saharan countries from the centre and driven them by bus to the Libyan and Algerian borders. There, officials force them to cross the border. These measures have also led to more refugees in Tunisia seeking EU-funded IOM programmes for “voluntary return” to their countries of origin.

    Now the EU wants to put pressure on Tunisia to introduce visa requirements for individual West African states. This is to affect, among others, Côte d’Ivoire, where most of the people arriving in the EU via Tunisia come from and almost all of whom arrive in Italy. Guinea and Tunisia come second and third among these nationalities.

    Reception from the Frontex Director

    In September, three months after the signing of the migration agreement, a delegation from Tunisia visited Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, with the participation of the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence. The visit from Tunis was personally received by Frontex Director Hans Leijtens. EU officials then gave presentations on the capabilities and capacities of the border agency, including the training department or the deportation centre set up in 2021, which relies on good cooperation with destination states of deportation flights.

    Briefings were also held on the cross-border surveillance system EUROSUR and the “Situation Centre”, where all threads from surveillance with ships, aircraft, drones and satellites come together. The armed “permanent reserve” that Frontex has been building up since 2021 was also presented to the Tunisian ministries. These will also be deployed in third countries, but so far only in Europe in the Western Balkans.

    However, Tunisia still does not want to negotiate such a deployment of Frontex personnel to its territory, so a status agreement necessary for this is a long way off. The government in Tunis is also not currently seeking a working agreement to facilitate the exchange of information with Frontex. Finally, the Tunisian coast guard also turned down an offer to participate in an exercise of European coast guards in Greece.

    Model for migration defence with Egypt

    Aiding and abetting “smuggling” is an offence that the police are responsible for prosecuting in EU states. If these offences affect two or more EU states, Europol can coordinate the investigations. This, too, is now to get underway with Tunisia: In April, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson had already visited Tunis and agreed on an “operational partnership to combat people smuggling” (ASOP), for which additional funds will be made available. Italy, Spain and Austria are responsible for implementing this police cooperation.

    Finally, Tunisia is also one of the countries being discussed in Brussels in the “Mechanism of Operational Coordination for the External Dimension of Migration” (MOCADEM). This working group was newly created by the EU states last year and serves to politically bundle measures towards third countries of particular interest. In one of the most recent meetings, the migration agreement was also a topic. Following Tunisia’s example, the EU could also conclude such a deal with Egypt. The EU heads of government are now to take a decision on this.


    #Europe #Union_européenne #EU #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #accord #gestion_des_frontières #aide_financière #protocole_d'accord #politique_migratoire #externalisation #Memorandum_of_Understanding (#MoU) #Tunisie #coopération #Frontex #aide_financière #Neighbourhood_Development_and_International_Cooperation_Instrument (#NDICI) #gardes-côtes_tunisiens #militarisation_des_frontières #retours_volontaires #IOM #OIM #UNHCR #EU4BorderSecurity_programme #Seahorse_Mediterranean #officiers_de_liaison #arrivées #départs #chiffres #statistiques #prix #Frontex #operational_partnership_to_combat_people_smuggling (#ASOP) #Mechanism_of_Operational_Coordination_for_the_External_Dimension_of_Migration (#MOCADEM)

    ajouté à la métaliste sur le Mémorandum of Understanding entre l’UE et la Tunisie :

  • EU Commission gifts Egypt patrol boats to become a gatekeeper for migration, following Tunisian model

    The EU Commission wants to conclude a migration defense agreement with Egypt and is upgrading the country’s land and sea borders. However, hardly any refugee boats leave from Egyptian shores for Europe.

    The government in Cairo is to receive two new ships for its coast guard. A corresponding tender worth €23 million was published by the EU Commission in May. This was confirmed by Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi in a response to a question from MEP Özlem Demirel. Accordingly, the funds come from the NDICI fund, which is intended to provide financial support for the EU’s Neighborhood Policy. As a purpose, the Commission states border management and search and rescue operations. Egypt will also receive thermal imaging cameras, satellite tracking systems and other surveillance equipment.

    With the donations, the Commission wants to build Egypt into a new partner in migration defense. In 2021, the government had sent a “list” of border protection equipment to Brussels for this purpose. EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson then traveled to the Egyptian capital to negotiate them, followed by a visit by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in 2022.

    Before the end of this year, the Commission intends to conclude an “Operational Partnership to Combat People Smuggling” with Egypt. Tunisia recently became the first African country to sign such a deal with the EU. However, this “partnership” violates EU treaties. This is because the Commission should actually have obtained the approval of the 27 member states before concluding the contract with Tunisia.

    Egypt is also upgrading its land borders with EU funds. To this end, the Commission has promised the country a further €87 million – a significant increase on plans from last year, which still envisaged €57 million. For the “protection of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants,” the government in Cairo will receive an extra €23 million.

    In addition, 20 million will be used to take in people who have fled Sudan because of the civil war. Two months ago, however, the Egyptian government drastically tightened conditions for displaced Sudanese, who must now apply for a visa to cross the border. Since then, thousands have been stranded at the border in dire humanitarian conditions, writes the organization Human Rights Watch.

    The Egyptian government continues to oppose the stationing of Frontex in Egypt. As early as 2007, the EU states had commissioned their border agency to negotiate a working agreement with Cairo, but this has not yet come to pass. However, Frontex coordinates “Joint Return Operations” of rejected asylum seekers to Egypt.

    With about 108 million inhabitants, Egypt is one of the EU’s neighbors with the largest population. A third of them are under 24 years old. Many of them seek a better future in Europe and cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat to do so. According to the Commission, the number of these irregular entries into the EU increased sixfold in 2021 compared to the previous year.

    Most border crossings by Egyptian nationals take place in Italy. However, these depart mainly from Libya, the Commission confirms: not even one percent of the crossings started from Egyptian shores, according to the figures. This also applies to refugees from other countries after they have passed through Egypt as a transit country.

    However, the refugee route via Libya is also becoming increasingly closed: In recent years, Egypt has significantly strengthened its military border surveillance to the neighboring country. Refugees are therefore increasingly reliant on aid workers, who are also facing more persecution. The “Law No. 82 on Combating Illegal Migration and Smuggling of Migrants,” enacted in 2016 and strengthened in 2022, allows authorities to take tougher action against any kind of aid to escape.

    Refugees are also criminalized in this way, confirms human rights lawyer Muhammad Al Kashef, who is active in the Alarmphone project and the Abolish Frontex campaign: “Thousands of people have been arrested under Law No. 82 for trying to enter or leave the country irregularly.” Egypt’s poor human rights record is compounded by its new partnership with the EU, Al Kashef told “nd.”

    Not all migration from Egypt is unwanted in Europe. EU states want to benefit from skilled workers from Egypt and facilitate their entry. Egypt is therefore one of the priority countries to be won over for a so-called “Talent Partnership”. The Commission began negotiations on this in June.


    #externalisation #asile #réfugiés #contrôles_frontaliers #frontières #Egypte #accord #gardes-côtes #aide_financière #militarisation_des_frontières #surveillance #matériel #Operational_Partnership_to_Combat_People_Smuggling #partenariat