Tunisia captured migrants, boats seized in huge human smuggling crack
The crackdown coincided with challenges faced by the Italian island of Lampedusa due to an influx of boat migrants arriving from North Africa.
Tunisia Launches Major Crackdown on People Smuggling
Tunisian authorities, with support from planes and anti-terrorism units, executed a sweeping operation aimed at curbing people smuggling along the country's coast, particularly in the Sfax region, a significant launch point for migrants embarking on perilous journeys to Europe.
As This crackdown unfolded as Italy's Lampedusa island grappled with an unprecedented surge in boat migrant arrivals from North Africa.
Massive Operation Hits Multiple Locations
Tunisia's National Guard spearheaded the operation, raiding residences housing hundreds of migrants, intercepting vehicles transporting migrants to beaches, and confiscating boats used by smugglers. This multifaceted effort involved an air operation, police dogs, military convoys, and hundreds of police officers in towns such as Jebiniana, Kerkennah, Msatria, and Sfax, the regional capital.
National Guard Colonel Houssem Jbebli explained that the aerial part of the operation aimed to target smugglers profiting from the desperation of vulnerable people seeking a better life.
Presidential Directive Amidst Growing Migration Challenges
In response to what the Interior Ministry labeled an "unacceptable surge of migrants," President Kais Saied initiated this crackdown. The operation underscores the increasing demands on Tunisia from Italy and the European Union to tackle the migration issue. The EU has committed 1 billion euros to assist Tunisia's ailing economy in return for measures to curb the migrant influx.
Lampedusa Struggles with Record Landings
The situation in Lampedusa has grown increasingly dire, with approximately 7,000 people arriving from North Africa on boats in recent days. The island's mayor has made pleas for assistance. Italy has witnessed a dramatic increase in boat migrant arrivals, with approximately 126,000 people arriving since the beginning of the year—nearly double the figure recorded in the same period last year, according to data from the Italian interior ministry.
Italian PM Calls for EU Action
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has called for the European Union to take concerted action, including the possibility of a naval mission, to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa. The escalating migration crisis underscores the urgency for coordinated efforts to address the issue at a regional and international level.