Does Tunisia Offer a Partial Solution to the Refugee Challenge ?

Jan 11, 2019

One of the stranger truths of Europe's immigration crisis is that far fewer immigrants are coming to Europe now. In fact, since the peak of the crisis in 2015, immigrant refugee numbers actually have dropped each year. Nevertheless, the crisis is affecting one political challenge after another throughout Europe, from the Brexit debate in the UK to a resurgence of right-wing governments such as in Hungary.

Fear is a common denominator, whether one be an immigrant or a multi-generational citizen of Europe. The fears are both real and imagined. The migrant fears, in some cases, loss of life, and nearly all look for better economic opportunity. The long-term citizen fears a change in the culture, loss of job and opportunity. They fear one another. Few countries know quite what to do about it.

One option is NOT sending refugees back to the port of departure. Countries in the MIddle East and Africa won't take most refugees back, and the fact is that the migrants really don't want to go back and resist any effort for repatriation.

The one exception may be Tunisia. It is the only country in North Africa and the Middle East which has stated that not only will they take Tunisian migrants back, if the EU chooses to send them back, but is setting up economic training programs so that when that migrant is returned to Tunisia, a job-training program is waiting for him or her.Tunisia recognizes that every migrant leaving means a potential workforce crisis, so it is setting up education and work training programs for returning migrants. This certainly makes it easier for EU officials to return migrants to Tunisia, but also has created stronger cooperation between Italy, the most common point of entry for migrants from North Africa, and Tunisia.

In fairness, migrants from Tunisia are not in the numbers of many other countries in the region. In fact, Tunisia is not in the top ten countries from which migrants are going to Europe. Nevertheless, the education and training programs are something that other countries could benefit by taking the time to study them and see what might work for them as well.