Zarzis, in Southern Tunisia, lies just over the border from Libya, the main jump-off point for migrants and refugees from Africa trying to make it to Europe. Here, the numbers of such desperate people, both dead and alive, have been increasingly washing ashore after trying to flee the horrors of Libya. Those who are lucky enough to be alive all have agonising stories of slavery, rape, beatings and murder at the hands of Libyan militias and military, who are often one and the same.
Once safe in Tunisia, most migrants realise that Tunisia has its own troubles and that there aren’t enough opportunities there for them to survive. Some choose to return to their home countries, but many will try again to make it to Europe. And they’re not alone.
In a country with low wages and staggeringly high youth unemployment, many young Tunisians are also looking for a future beyond their home shores. 8700 Tunisians were caught trying to get illegally to Europe in 2017, a number far higher than previous years.
Many of them are from more rural areas, which have been hit worse by the economic downturn, which has seen many industries all but wiped out, leaving people with little choice but to look elsewhere.
And like the sub-Saharan migrants, the Tunisians have been turning to the sea to leave. Repurposed fishing boats leaving Tunisia can reach Sicily or Lampedusa in less than five hours, and are thought to be safer than those leaving Libya, but still, many don’t make the crossing.
With widespread economic and political turmoil across much of Africa, the situation in Tunisia will only continue to get more desperate.