Tunis is to receive financial aid from the European Union aimed at reducing the number of migrants leaving Tunisia by boat for Italy, the European Commission announced on Friday.
The payments are partially linked to a controversial deal between the European Commission and Tunisia, worth up to more than €1 billion in aid for Tunis, signed in July despite allegations of human rights abuses by the Tunisian government.
The dispersements of a total of €127 million ($135 million) are earmarked to "address the urgent situation that we see in Lampedusa," a spokeswoman for the European Commission said, and as budgetary support for the economically struggling country.
On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa together with Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, after a sharp increase in migrant arrivals.
Because of its proximity to the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, Lampedusa has long been one of the main destinations for migrants from North Africa seeking to reach European shores.
Roughly half of the new payments, which are to be disbursed in the coming days, should be used for new coastguard ships, equipment for vessels including thermal cameras, search and rescue operations and repatriation of migrations, the spokeswoman said.
After fewer arrivals during the Covid-19 pandemic, more migrants have reached the EU in recent months.
More than 127,200 people have already arrived in Italy alone via sea this year, according to the latest Interior Ministry figures. This figure last year was 66,200. story by DPA