Italy promises to help reunite Tunisian families
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 23/05/12
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano pledged to take greater interest in illegal Tunisian immigrants in Italy.
He made his announcement on the side lines on a two-day official visit to Tunisia that ended Thursday (May 17th).
President Napolitano promised to help Tunisian families in obtaining information about the fate of their children who immigrated to Italy, with whom they had lost contact completely.
"We understand the tragedies of the grieving Tunisian families who lost their sons in immigration processes, expected to be flights of hope but which turned into flights of death, and we want to assist them in obtaining information about their fate," Napolitano said.
The Italian president asserted that his country, in the framework of the large influx of illegal immigrants, gives priority to saving human lives and the search for the missing.
Napolitano said that his country wants to co-operate with Tunisia in the field of immigration, but on the condition that this is done through legal and organised immigration channels.
In a related context, interim Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said his country would "work with Italy to end illegal immigration", adding that "poverty and lack of livelihoods are what pushed thousands of young Tunisians to immigrate in search of a better future in Europe."
He said in an interview with the Italian News Agency: "The Italians and Europeans must understand that the only solution to this problem is the development of Tunisia, but this will require some time, and I assure them that Tunisia is moving toward greater stability and higher economic growth and this will be the real solution to the issue of secret immigration."
In April 2011, Tunisia and Italy signed a bilateral agreement on dealing with illegal immigration, providing for strengthening the capacity of Tunisian security units and empowering them with the necessary equipment and facilities to monitor the Tunisian coasts.
Difficult economic and social conditions that followed the Tunisian revolution and accompanying lawlessness forced thousands of Tunisians to head illegally to the Italian island of Lampedusa, located in the Mediterranean Sea 138km from the Tunisian coast.
This caused a diplomatic crisis between Tunisia and Italy before a decision to give a number of them temporary accommodation and to deport the others.
According to a Tunisian study on illegal immigration, published in December 2011, the number of Tunisians who immigrated to Italy and some other European countries illegally after the revolution number more than 40,000, 73% of them between age 20 and 29, while secondary school pupils and university students comprised about 45 per cent of these immigrants.
The study, prepared by the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, noted that 45% of the total were missing.
The two countries also signed an agreement to establish a strategic partnership between them aimed at developing operational methods and supporting partnership in the areas of security, politics and the promotion of small and medium enterprises.
Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalam described the signed agreement as important, pointing out that it will enable consolidation of Tunisia's distinctive partnership with Italy, as well as with the EU, and will give strong impetus to bilateral relations between the two countries.
In turn, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said the Italian government was committed under this agreement to support Tunisia in the fields of social and economic development and its efforts to obtain the rank of advanced partner with the European Union.
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