Press release, 17 April 2024

ASGI, ARCI, ActionAid, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Circular Spaces and Le Carbet challenge the funding for the refitting and transfer to Tunisia of 6 patrol boats. The hearing at the Lazio Regional Administrative Court set for April 30.

“PM Meloni’s visit to Tunis today confirms the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries, despite the Tunisian government’s repressive policy against migrants.

Over the past year, Italy has played a leading role in the negotiations for the signing of the Memorandum between the European Union and Tunisia and has largely financed policies to block migration. This morning’s official visit of PM Meloni to Tunis is a confirmation of the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries, despite the authoritarian drift of the Tunisian government, which since February 2023 has pursued an openly racist and repressive policy against migrant people.

As part of this collaboration, in December 2023 the Italian Ministry of the Interior allocated 4,800,000 euros for the refurbishment and transfer of 6 patrol boats to the Tunisian Garde Nationale (G.N.), replicating a model already adopted in Libya. This funding has been challenged by ASGI, ARCI, ActionAid, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Circular Spaces, and Le Carbet, who have challenged it with a precautionary petition before the Lazio Regional Administrative Court. The hearing is set for next April 30.

Indeed, the plaintiff associations believe that the support to the Tunisian G.N. increases the risk of violation of fundamental rights and the obligation of “non-refoulement” of migrants and is illegitimate in several respects. In particular, the funding would violate national legislation prohibiting the funding and transfer of arms to third countries responsible for serious violations of international human rights conventions. The very transfer of the patrol boats is decreed without any involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense and the multiple advisory and control bodies that play a key role in the complex procedural mechanisms of planning, verification and authorization established by l. 185/1990 with the purpose of monitoring the flow of movement of armament materials in and out of the EU.

In addition, the Tunisian G.N. was found to be responsible for documented human rights violations during violent interceptions at sea and after landing in Tunisia, a country that therefore cannot be considered a “safe country” by the parameters of the SAR convention. The abuses committed by Tunisian authorities against migrant persons are widely documented by various international organizations and the United Nations itself. Numerous testimonies and reports denounce the violent methods of intervention at sea by the Tunisian G.N.: dangerous maneuvers aimed at blocking boats that on some occasions have resulted in shipwrecks and even the death of migrant people, use of guns and sticks to threaten people on board, theft of boat engines that are then left adrift, and other extremely dangerous practices. On many occasions, people intercepted at sea and brought back ashore were directly and illegally deported to areas bordering Libya and Algeria, where dozens lost their lives after being abandoned in the desert.

It is thus apparent that the means provided to the Tunisian authorities are constantly being used in acts that blatantly violate the human rights of migrants at sea, rather than contributing to humanitarian initiatives. Therefore, the appeal – filed by a pool of lawyers composed of Luce Bonzano, Maria Teresa Brocchetto, Giulia Crescini, Giulia Vicini, Carmela Maria Cordaro, Cristina Laura Cecchini, Lucia Gennari, Loredana Leo, Nicola Datena, Maria Pia Cecere, and Miriam Fagnani – calls for the immediate suspension of the agreement pending consideration of the case.”

Picture: Mediterranea Saving Humans

Statement in Italian: https://mediterranearescue.org/it/news/4-8-milioni-di-euro-per-fermare-i-migranti-dalla-tunisia-la-societa-civile-italiana-presenta-ricorso-al-tar