Italian court blocks deportation of migrant to Tunisia, saying it’s not a safe country

A court in Italy’s Florence ruled to block the deportation of a migrant to Tunisia after declaring that the country cannot be considered “safe”, delivering a significant blow to Giorgia Meloni’s government.

Cooperation with Tunisia in dealing with the surging numbers of migrant arrivals to Italy’s coasts has become crucial to the right-wing coalition government led by Meloni.

After talks spearheaded in part by Meloni, the European Union struck a deal with the Tunisian government earlier this year which will see the block giving the North African country €100 million to combat undocumented immigration.

At the same time, Meloni – who’s been cultivating Italy’s relationship with the Kais Saied government – has been pushing to have Tunisia considered a safe third country where migrants arriving from the country’s shores can eventually be relocated back there.

Tunisia’s President Saied, who has been hostile against migrants living in the country, has likely agreed to the deal because the country is currently facing rampant inflation and a major debt crisis.

Several human rights activists condemned the deal, raising doubts about whether Tunisia can really be considered a safe country to relocate migrants. In the wake of the EU-Tunisia deal, Amnesty International wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter that the agreement was “ill-judged” in relation to the “mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses by authorities” in Tunisia which would make the EU “complicit”.

On Wednesday, a court in Florence agreed with human rights activists, saying that Tunisia cannot be considered a safe country where democracy and human rights are respected.

It’s the first time that a migrant deportation to Tunisia is blocked in Italy, and the second time that a court defies the government’s recent attempts to deal with migration by relying on third countries like Tunisia to handle the issue.

In March, a court in Catania, Sicily, rejected the legitimacy of the government’s new rule stating that migrants arriving to Italy from “safe” countries can immediately be deported back without the possibility of asking for asylum. The judge ruled that the new decree was against both the Italian Constitution and EU law.

Now the Florence judge ruled that because of the ongoing socio-economic, water, and food crisis in Tunisia and the country’s “authoritarian descent”, Tunisia can no longer be considered safe.

Meloni isn’t happy about the latest ruling in Florence, and the government has already said it plans to appeal the decision.

She isn’t happy in general about what her government has managed to do in terms of tackling migration in the country. Meloni, who once suggested setting a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop migrant arrivals, has passed many tough new rules to stop migration – to little or no avail, as the number of migrants arriving to Italy’s shores this year has exceeded 130,000.

Last week, the Italian Prime Minister admitted she had hoped to “do better” on migration.

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