Four Tunisians arrested for robbing migrants at sea

Tunisian police have arrested four Tunisians, including a fisherman, on suspicion of maritime piracy for taking engines and money from a boat carrying Tunisian migrants who were trying to reach Italy, AFP learnt on Thursday from a judicial source.

“Last Saturday, four people were arrested by the National Guard in Teboulba, near Monastir (east)” after one of the victims posted a video on the TikTok network showing the pirates stealing the engine, said Farid Ben Jha, spokesman for the Monastir court.

An inflatable dinghy, an engine and an unspecified sum of money were seized from their home, added Mr Ben Jha. They are accused of “criminal association with the aim of attacking people and property”, he added.

Recent judicial investigations in Italy have shown, according to the Italian agency Ansa, that Tunisian fishermen have turned to piracy, which is proving more lucrative, by pillaging the many boats that regularly leave the Tunisian coastline.

Six Tunisian “pirate fishermen”, aged between 30 and 52, were arrested in mid-August on the instructions of the public prosecutor’s office in Agrigento (southern Italy) for attacking a boat carrying 49 migrants of unspecified origin.

The “fishermen” who left from Monastir are accused of stealing the boat’s engine and forcing the migrants to hand over their money.

At the end of July, another investigation was opened by the same court, according to Ansa, against four Tunisians arrested for forcing migrants to hand over their mobile phones and money in exchange for a tow to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, where the majority of migrants from Tunisia arrive.

Nearly 113,000 migrants have landed illegally in Italy since the start of the year, two-thirds of them from Tunisia and the rest from Libya, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The departure of sub-Saharan migrants has increased since the spring and the rise in xenophobic sentiment following a speech in February by President Kais Saied denouncing the “hordes” of illegal immigrants who, he claimed, were coming to Tunisia to “change the demographic composition”.

Thousands of Tunisians have also left their country illegally, mired in a serious socio-economic and political crisis since President Saied seized full power in July 2021.

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