EU to disburse $135 million to Tunisia as part of migration pact
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African migrants gather in a public garden in Sfax, Tunisia July 13, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Commission on Friday said it would disburse 127 million euros ($135 million) in aid to Tunisia as part of its deal with the country aimed at fighting illegal immigration from Africa to Europe.
The Commission said 60 million euros would be made available in budget support to Tunisia, while a package worth around 67 million euros aimed at strengthening Tunisia's capacities to combat human traffickers and tighten border controls would be disbursed in the coming days.
Tunisia and the EU in July signed a "strategic partnership" deal to fight illegal migration in return for financial support during a sharp increase in boats leaving the North African nation for Europe.
In a statement, the Commission said the latest financial package would help refit search and rescue vessels, vehicles and other equipment for the Tunisian coast guard and navy.
It would also help with the protection of migrants in Tunisia in cooperation with the U.N. and returns of migrants to their countries of origin, the statement said.
"The provision of new vessels, thermal cameras and other operational assistance, coupled with the necessary training, are also foreseen," the Commission added.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in July that the pact with Tunisia could serve as a model for agreements with other countries, as the EU struggles to stem unauthorised flows of migrants across the Mediterranean.
But some EU lawmakers, Tunisian opposition figures and rights activists have criticised the deal, arguing it will not curb migration but will bolster the government of President Kais Saied, whom they accuse of autocratic rule.
Saied seized wide-ranging powers in 2021, shutting down parliament before passing a new constitution that gives him near-total authority. He has said his actions were legal, and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos and rampant corruption. ($1 = 0.9401 euros)
(Reporting by Bart Meijer and Andrew Gray; Editing by Alex Richardson and GV De Clercq)
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