Tunisia Cracks Down on Smuggling and Organized Crime Amid Security Concerns

Tunisia boosts border security with Libya, cracks down on migration amid regional instability and UN concerns over racist rhetoric against African migrants.

Olalekan Adigun
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Tunisia Cracks Down on Smuggling and Organized Crime Amid Security Concerns

Tunisia Cracks Down on Smuggling and Organized Crime Amid Security Concerns

Tunisia has increased its military presence along the border with Libya in response to growing security concerns in the region. The Tunisian Ministry of Defense announced that the military is closely monitoring developments on the southeastern borders with Libya and is prepared to face any emergency.

The head of the government's National Counter Terrorism Committee and the head of the Tunisian Center for Global Security Studies have emphasized the need for vigilance in facing armed gangs and terrorist groups who could exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in smuggling and threaten the security and economic situation of North African countries. The former Director General of Military Security and the Tunisian Customs has warned against the possibility of a future civil war in Libya, but has ruled out the involvement of Tunisia's politicians in the intra-Libyan differences.

In a related development, the Tunisian Interior Minister and his Italian counterpart met in Tunis to discuss ongoing joint projects between their ministries, particularly in the fight against irregular migration and organized crime. The Italian Minister praised the cooperation between the two countries' interior ministries as a good example of European bilateral relations. The Tunisian Minister stressed the ministry's commitment to protecting Tunisia's borders and its firm refusal to be a settlement or transit point for irregular migrants. They agreed to continue strengthening cooperation between the two ministries and consolidating bilateral relations to serve the interests of both peoples.

Why this matters: Tunisia's security crackdown and increased cooperation with Italy highlight the growing challenges posed by smuggling, organized crime, and irregular migration in the Mediterranean region. The situation has implications for regional stability and the security of North African countries.

Meanwhile, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged Tunisia's authorities to end racist hate speech, especially against African migrants from south of the Sahara. The Committee found that remarks by President Kais Saied, who called the migrants a source of violence and unacceptable crimes, violate the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee expressed deep concern about reports of increased racial or xenophobic hate speech and acts of violence against these migrants, including arbitrary arrests without procedural guarantees. The Committee requested that Tunisia immediately halt the arrests and collective detentions of the migrants, release those arbitrarily detained, and allow asylum applications. The developments related to the migrants prompted the World Bank to indefinitely suspend its partnership framework with Tunisia.

Key Takeaways

  • Tunisia boosts military presence on Libya border due to security concerns.
  • Tunisia and Italy strengthen cooperation against irregular migration and organized crime.
  • UN urges Tunisia to end racist hate speech against African migrants.
  • Tunisia arrests and detains African migrants, prompting World Bank to suspend partnership.
  • Experts warn of potential civil war in Libya and its impact on North Africa.