Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui speaks about his country’s stance on migration
TUNIS - Here are excerpts regarding Tunisia’s stance on migration-related issues from an interview with Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui:
● On migration as a global phenomenon:
We must point out that migration is a human phenomenon that has existed since early times. Without human migration there wouldn’t be today countries like the United States of America and Australia.
Generally speaking, we look at migration as a factor of enrichment rather than a source of threat. Forty years ago, we didn’t need visas to go to this or that country; so the question of migration as we see it today is a new phenomenon linked unfortunately to a number of aspects that can be seen as dangerous on the international level, such as the closing off of borders, isolationism and the rejection of the other.
● On recent talks with Italy:
On June 20, I met with my Italian counterpart. I was, in fact, the first foreign minister to meet with the new Italian foreign minister since he assumed office on June 1. We had an excellent and friendly meeting and we addressed many issues of interest to both Tunisia and Italy, including the question of migration. He assured me that his country will continue implementing what was agreed upon in April of 2011 so that illegal migration could be stopped and tragedies like the recent one in Kerkennah would be avoided.
● On how Europe can help Tunisia:
We must insist first that Tunisia is against illegal migration and that it has during the past decade signed a significant number of bilateral agreements with France and with Italy, Switzerland and Belgium.
We are still proposing to our European friends that, given that Tunisia has about 300,000 university graduates and that we know that Europe is in need of migrants, legal migrants of course, why not seek together the appropriate legal ways of allowing our young job seekers who can make contributions to Europe’s economy to enter the European zone and seek jobs there.
We have suggested to the European side that under a form of temporary and conditional visa, young Tunisian university graduates could be admitted to Europe and granted a stay permit there provided they find employment within a limited period of time. This could be a win-win partnership between us, as we seek to absorb unemployment, and for Europe, which needs qualified labour.
● On the proposal by some European leaders that “disembarkation platforms” be set up outside of the EU
We are opposed to this idea and the Europeans know Tunisia’s position regarding this issue.
This is a question of sovereignty and we don’t think that such an idea will solve the problem at hand for it is based on transferring the problem from the sea to the land.
We do cooperate with the Italians and the Europeans in rescuing migrants but within the framework of humanitarian duty and international law. We are not responsible for the situation and we refuse to set up holding centres on our territory.
Tunisia’s position is clear. Tunisia is exercising its sovereign right to protect its own shores and categorically refuses to set up centres on its territory for receiving and holding illegal migrants.
Tunisia has a different approach to this question by advocating the facilitation of legal migration.
No party has claimed that Tunisia has become a crossing zone for sub-Saharan illegal migrants. Tunisia has so far succeeded in guarding its borders and is in total control of the situation.