The deal signed between three EU leaders and Tunisia on restricting the flow of refugees and migrant workers to Europe will have an impact on numbers, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on his return to the Netherlands on Sunday.
Rutte, commission president Ursula Von der Leyen and Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni were in Tunisia on Sunday to sign the deal with Tunisian president Kais Saied.
Rutte said checks would be in place to make sure that Tunisia does not contravene human rights legislation when putting the agreement into practice. Human rights organisations have sounded the alarm about the deal.
“All the agreements we make about boat crossings and sending back people to safe countries must happen within the scope of international treaties,” he said.
“This deal is important because we are trying to end the smugglers’ business model of sending people on a dangerous trip over the Mediterranean sea in small boats…. If you succeed in getting that under control, then it will have an impact here.”
Mark Rutte’s fourth cabinet collapsed earlier this month after the coalition partners failed to reach a deal on reducing migration.
The EU and Tunisia have agreed that the north African country will better control its borders in return for investment in its economy. The EU is also contributing €100m to the border security operation.
Human rights organisations have slammed the agreement. Dutch refugee aid group Vluchtelingenwerk said was concerned Tunisia will become a “sort of dead end street for refugees” while Amnesty International said it feared people smugglers will ultimately benefit from the deal.
They and some MEPs have also voiced concerns about the breakdown of democracy in Tunisia, which in total receive over €1 billion in EU support. Others have questioned the legitimacy of the deal in the first place.
— Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) July 16, 2023
Saied on Sunday evening denounced the aid groups’ concerns, saying they were spreading false facts about Tunisia instead of focusing their efforts on the criminal gangs behind the smuggling.
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