Thousands of refugees from Tunisia have reached the Italian island of Lampedusa. PRO ASYL demands that boat people are received in a humane way, which needs to be supported by Europe. Given the instable situation, applications for asylum need to be considered carefully. In order to support a democratic transition, ways for regular migration need to be established.
“The European Union now has the chance to take the side of the pro-democracy movement in northern Africa and of human rights. Having collaborated with corrupt dictators in the region for years, setting up an inhuman regime of refugee deflection, Europe may not continue this fatal and bigoted policy against refugees and migrants”, says Karl Kopp, PRO ASYL’s director of European Affairs.
The security situation in Tunisia remains unstable. Shootings around the presidential palace and the national bank were reported during the weekend. It is still to be established who holds power within the country. In this continuously insecure situation, Tunisians leaving their country must not be returned without assessment of their claims.
The revolutionary events in northern Africa bring to mind the fall of the “iron curtain” in 1989. Many people from eastern Europe made use of their newly found freedom to leave the circumstances in their countries behind. However, the number of migrants and refugees from the region never reached numbers of millions as was foreseen then.
Italy needs support. However, rhetoric of emergency is uncalled for. Italy has helped the toppled regime of Ben Ali for years to construct detention centers, and to seal off its borders. In this context it becomes clear that the demand to deploy Italian police or a new Frontex mission in Tunisia, as stated by the Italian Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, is seen as a provocation. A representative of the transitory Tunisian government, Taïeb Baccouche, has already rebuked the proposition and clarified its background, calling Mr. Maroni a figurehead of the extreme and racist Italian right.
PRO ASYL’s position is that the call for democratization in the region needs to be backed up by a fundamental revision of Europe’s cooperation with northern African states. Tunisia needs every possibly support the EU can offer on its way to Democracy. This includes measures of immediate humanitarian aid as well as an offer for regular migration programs.