Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is scheduled to pay a short visit to Tunisia on Tuesday in order to negotiate the resumption of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to the North African nation, according to NOVA News Agency.
Italian officials fear that the absence of IMF funds may trigger a severe financial crisis in Tunisia, potentially sparking a new influx of migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe in search of improved living conditions.
Negotiations regarding a $1.9 billion loan from the IMF to Tunisia have been at a standstill for several months, with Tunisian President Kais Saied rejecting crucial conditions of the proposed agreement.
Saied took control of most governmental powers in 2021, suspending the parliament and introducing rule by decree. Aside from blaming corruption for Tunisia’s difficulties, he has shown minimal involvement in economic policies.
Earlier this year, in February, Saied ordered security forces to deport all illegal immigrants, alleging a plot to shift Tunisia’s demographics to a more African and less Arab profile. This led to a rise in migrant departures from Italy.
United Nations data reveals that of the 51,215 migrants who arrived in Italy by boat in the first week of June this year, 26,555 had departed from Tunisia, compared to just 3,658 during the same period in 2022.
A government source in Rome disclosed that Italy seeks to gradually unlock portions of international funding for Tunisia in return for stepwise reforms, aiming for a rapid amelioration of Tunisia’s economic climate.
Since assuming office in October, Meloni, who has already paid visits to Tunisia’s neighboring countries, Algeria and Libya, has committed her right-wing coalition to a tough stance on sea migration. However, the number of new arrivals has more than doubled this year, posing challenges for the government.