Leftist parties condemn EU-Tunisia agreement to curb migration

The Workers’ Party of Tunisia and the Italian leftist party Potere al Popolo said that Tunisia’s deal with the EU on migration and an upcoming agreement with the IMF are a “perfect pact between liberalism, authoritarianism and xenophobia” 

July 24, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisian President Kais Saied (third from right) and European leaders.

The Workers’ Party of Tunisia and the Italian leftist party, Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), in a joint statement on Sunday, July 23, condemned the agreement between Tunisia and the European Union that envisages containing the flow of migrants to Europe. They also criticized an imminent agreement between Tunisia and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will promote austerity policies. They called the agreements a “perfect pact between liberalism, authoritarianism and xenophobia.” 

The multi-million dollar “strategic and comprehensive partnership” between the EU and Tunisia was signed on July 16. As part of it, the EU will provide Tunisia Euros 105 million (USD 116 million) to curb migration. The statement noted that the deal had “no clause on the restoration of democratic institutions and civil rights and the end of internal repression and respect for the human rights of migrant men and women, but only [offered] money in exchange for social, political and economic violence.”

It added that “the model already present in Libya and Turkey arrives today in Tunisia and will be formalized tomorrow in Egypt and Morocco where repression, anti-people policies, and discrimination against migrants are already on the agenda.” European leaders have declared their intention to replicate the agreement with other countries in the region. 

The parties noted that the massive loans provided to Tunisia will be subject to the government implementing harsh and unpopular economic policies that will cause further distress to migrants, as well as Tunisians. The statement instead advocated “unity and the struggle to satisfy the needs of the majority of the population: work, housing, health.”

The statement also strongly criticized Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The far-right wing Italian leader was in the forefront of negotiations with Tunisia and has been a fierce opponent of “illegal” migration. Italy hosted a multi-party migration conference in its capital Rome on Sunday, where leaders of several countries doubled down on anti-migrant and anti-refugee rhetoric. The conference was attended by leaders and representatives of more than 20 countries, the EU, and several international financial institutions. 

Speaking at the self-described Rome Process, Meloni said that the “illegal” flow of migrants to countries in the Mediterranean was only profitable for “criminal groups who get rich at the expense of the most fragile and use their strength even against the governments.” She claimed that Italy is open to legal migration, and that all of Europe needed migrants. 

Tunisian President Kais Saied also spoke in the same vein, declaring that “international human traffickers are not welcome in our country.” 

Right-wing leaders across Europe have cast themselves as opponents of “illegal migration” and smuggling while ignoring the historical role their countries have played in creating conditions which force people to leave their homes. The NATO-led invasion of Libya is an example.

According to United Nations statistics, more than 189,000 migrants arrived in Europe by sea last year, a majority of them in Italy. In the first six months of this year, around 100,000 migrants have made this difficult and perilous journey with hundreds dying tragically in the process. Human rights and rescue groups have called the Mediterranean a graveyard for migrants and a crime scene. Human Rights Watch also condemned the EU’s moves and called the deal “a new low in the EU’s efforts to curb migrants’ arrival at any cost” while “paying lip service to human rights.”