This past weekend, Tunisia’s coast guard managed to rescue more than eighty people from two boats in distress carrying migrants hoping to get to Europe as countries start to relax strict lockdown measures.
Coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Houssameddine Jbabli said one person was died during the rescue of eleven migrants just off the coast of the city of Sfax, but the captain and principal trafficker managed to evade the authorities. The coast guard found another boat in poor condition near the Kerkennah Islands, from which they rescued seventy people. Jbabli said in the previous two days Tunisia had prevented ten attempts to smuggle people across the Mediterranean, mostly to Italy.
At the height of the migrant crisis, more than a million refugees fled to Europe from North African ports
These rescues come not long after the European Union launched Operation Irini, a joint naval mission set up ostensibly to prevent arms smuggling into Libya but which has largely functioned as a replacement for Operation Sophia, a 2015 mission coordinated to address the trafficking of people from North Africa into Europe. At the height of the migrant crisis, more than a million refugees fled to Europe from North African ports, escaping conflict, terrorism, climate-induced poverty, or political persecution.
The number of crossings since has drastically gone down, aided in part by joint efforts between the European Union and African Union, though tensions have mounted over the asymmetric manner in which European concerns regarding migrants and refugees seem to take precedence over African directives.