misery or death!

Photo Rai 3 – Tuesday 18 October – A four-year-old Tunisian girl arrived on the island of Lampedusa alone on a secret migration boat. His parents were unable to board in time and remained in Tunisia.

What makes the citizen of a country sell everything he has to jump into a secret boat and flee to another continent at the risk of losing his life there? What makes parents throw their children into the sea and condemn them to almost certain death? What makes “ordinary” people with “stable” professional situations decide to drop everything to go? And especially how can a sane person consider emigrating underground after seeing with his own eyes the tragedies it entails and the rotting corpses lying on the beaches? How and why? Tunisia is not a country at war and yet…

Two human tragedies recently rocked Tunisia. Two illegal boat capsizings have killed dozens of migrants. Some bodies have been found, others are still missing. In Zarzis and Monastir, the families of the victims are devastated, mothers cry for their children, others hope that the remains of their offspring will be returned to them. The bodies are in such a state of decomposition that they are impossible to identify without traces and without a DNA test, they wash up on beaches or are found by the maritime security or fishermen.

Clandestine migration no longer has a profile, neither gender nor age. They are teenagers, men, women and children throwing themselves into the sea, they are not all unemployed, some had a “situation” and their gestures left those around them in the most total incomprehension. It is no longer rare to hear of an entire family missing at sea, it is even becoming unfortunately common.

Illegal migration in numbers

15,430 According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Tunisian migrants have reached Italian shores in 2022.

From January to September, Tunisia had 507 dead and missing according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES).

Still according to FTDES, 23,517 migrants were intercepted. 2424 minors joined Italy (316 in 2019) and 525 women (under fifty in 2019), between January and September 2022.

The state is still looking for the “causes”

The President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed, ordered to deepen the investigation of the incident of the sinking of the boat in Zarzis, as well as the other incidents that cost the lives of many migrants. He referred to consistent evidence proving the involvement of “well-defined parties” in human trafficking.

The head of state emphasized the need to prosecute all those involved in these dramas in cooperation with the public prosecutor to avoid impunity.

The head of state, who only spoke late about the Zarzis case, declared that ” duty requires an inquiry into the causes which have induced even children to think of throwing themselves into boats, henceforth known by the name of death boats”.

He emphasized that an end to these tragedies can only happen within the framework of a comprehensive approach, both national and international.

Kaïs Saïed’s statements triggered a wave of indignation. First for their delay and then for their inconsistency. The President of the Republic, who should be the voice of reconciliation and the bearer of hope and solutions, still wonders, while the phenomenon has grown steadily for years, what could have caused it… the citizens are amazed, the politicians do not miss the opportunity to reclaim the dramas for political purposes for even more hollow populism that no longer convinces anyone and above all that no longer holds anyone back.

Generalized misery

Tunisia is a country in crisis, or rather in crisis. Without going into the intricacies of economic analysis, it is easy to understand the impact of the crisis on citizens’ wallets thanks to a figure related to the inflation rate.

The family consumer price index in Tunisia has reached a new record that has not been equaled in forty years. By 1984, Tunisia had reached the annual average of 8.9%, according to data referenced by the World Bank.

Inflation increased to 9.1% in September 2022 after 8.6% in August, 8.2% in July 2022, 8.1% in June 2022, 7.8% in May 2022, while it was only 6.7% in January.

This increase is mainly explained by the acceleration in the rate of increase in food prices at a rate of 13% against 11.9% in August, prices for the “housing, water, gas, electricity and other fuels” group at 6.4% against 6.2% in August and the prices of goods and transport services of 8.3% against 8.1% in August.

In September 2022, food prices will increase by 13% over a year. This increase is primarily due to the increase in the price of poultry by 27.4%, eggs by 25%, edible oils by 21.8% and fresh fruit by 18.2%.

The Tunisian’s purchasing power has collapsed, with a minimum wage of just over 400 dinars it is impossible to make ends meet. Eating, paying one’s bills and one’s rent, educating one’s children and hoping to have access to a minimum of free time has become almost impossible even for a civil servant.

Add to that the country living in political instability with a president who has given himself full powers and whose legitimacy is being questioned by all his opponents, all currents combined. During recent demonstrations, thousands of citizens took to the streets to call for his dismissal and the overthrow of the existing regime.

The government is overwhelmed, drowning in the crisis, it seems to navigate on sight and be satisfied with patch-up policies, as the sites are colossal and the funds non-existent. No sign, not least, predicts an imminent end to the crisis that the country is going through, all indicators are red and no one wants to bear the responsibility of informing the Tunisians about the real situation in their country. The head of government, Najla Bouden, has not spoken for a year, nothing filters from the Kasbah, and Carthage is content to charge at all costs, waging its political war far from the real concerns of its citizens. . Shortages follow each other, medicine, certain staple foods and then fuel. We fight, we trample, we promise, we deny, we find solutions until the next crisis, which is inevitable.

In Tunisia, health has become a luxury, quality education unavailable, public education has been blocked since the beginning of the school year mainly due to the boycott of substitute teachers, pensioners live in fear of the next day, fear of their meager pension. Civil servants have salaries that are not enough to get them through the month, most private sector employees have the same problem in addition to being deprived of their raises, the companies that employ them are also suffering from the crisis. The departures of foreign companies follow each other. Freedoms are threatened. Young people are desperate. Bureaucracy is suffocating, it binds potential, it kills all ambition. In the street, the faces are fallen, the shoulders bow under the weight of everyday life. More and more young candidates leave the ship, others nurture this project, still others dream of it without having the funds and others take the risk and dare to defy the ban and the danger for a hope, not certain, of a better life.

“Hope brings life” goes the famous saying, but what to do when there seems to be none? Tunisians who travel or want to travel often have the same reason, that they have no more to hope for from their country, that they have no prospects, no means to realize their ambitions, that they are unable to plan their future or even dreams about it. You just have to look a little further than the tip of your nose to see it, you just have to open your ears a little to hear it, if the horror of the pictures isn’t enough…

Myriam Ben Zineb

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