Tunisia Police Detains Migrant Trafficking Kingpin

by John Ojewale
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Tunisia Police Detains Migrant Trafficking Kingpin

Authorities in Tunisia have detained a man accused of organising a network that trafficked migrants over the Mediterranean, including one attempted passage in which 20 people drowned. The North African country, which is only 130 kilometres from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a popular stopover for migrants making the treacherous sea trek to Europe.

The national guard said Thursday on Facebook that investigators in Tunisia’s second city of Sfax had “arrested the organiser of clandestine crossings, who was wanted in 24 cases and had been sentenced to 79 years.”

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi praised the arrest of-

“a man suspected of being one of the main traffickers involved in departures from Sfax.”

Sfax is considered the departure point for many migrants heading to Europe. The Tunisian national guard accused the guy of being responsible for the deaths of 20 Tunisians. The Tunisians had drowned in September after boarding a boat from Chebba, a seaside city north of Sfax.

According to the European Union’s border agency Frontex, the number of illegal crossings to Europe across the central Mediterranean increased by about 300% in the first four months of 2023. This is in comparison to the same time last year, with nearly 42,200 entries identified.

It observed a “1,100% increase compared to last year” in maritime voyages from Tunisia alone.

However, due to weather conditions in the Mediterranean, the influx of migrants from Tunisia has slowed in recent weeks.

In the first three months of 2023, the national guard claimed to have stopped or saved 14,406 migrants. Just over 1,200 of this number were Tunisians and the remainder hailed from other regions of Africa.

Since President Kais Saied gave an impassioned speech on February 21. He alleged that illegal immigration was a demographic threat to Tunisia. Attempts to cross have also increased, especially by migrants from sub-Saharan African nations.

With spiralling inflation and high unemployment, Tunisia itself is experiencing a protracted socio-economic crisis. This has been driving some of its citizens to leave the country in search of a better life elsewhere.



cc: Punch Ng

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