The European Union will “swiftly” disburse 127 million euros under a July deal to curb irregular migration.

The European Union will begin providing money to Tunisia as part of a deal aimed at curbing irregular migration from the country, the European Commission said.

An initial payment of 127 million euros ($135 million) will be paid out “in the coming days,” Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said.

Pisonero added that of the 127 million euros that were supposed to be paid out “expeditiously,” 42 million euros ($44.7 million) fell under the migration aspect of the July deal. The rest came from previously agreed programs, with 60 million euros ($63.9 million) earmarked to help Tunisia with its budget.

Tunisia and the EU agreed in July on a “strategic partnership” to combat irregular migration in return for financial support, amid a sharp increase in the number of boats leaving the North African country for Europe.

Under the agreement signed by Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Tunisia will receive 105 million euros ($112 million) to curb irregular migration, 150 million euros ($160 million) in budget support and 900 million euros ($959 million). ) of long-term help.

Von der Leyen said at the time of signing that the agreement could serve as a model for agreements with other countries as the EU struggles to stem unauthorized flows of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean.

Tunisia is one of the main departure points for boats carrying refugees and migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with most boats heading to Italy and in particular the island of Lampedusa.

EU lawmakers, the bloc’s ombudsman and migrant aid charities have questioned whether the deal with Tunisia, which has strong support from Italy’s far-right government, meets European legal standards.

According to an EU statement, the Tunis coast guard is to be strengthened by providing new ships, thermal imaging cameras and other operational assistance, as well as upgrading search and rescue ships to prevent boats from leaving the coast. In addition, cooperation with the United Nations on the protection of refugees and migrants and their return to their countries of origin will be strengthened.

Part of the money also goes to UN organizations that support migrants.

Tunisian President Kais Saied is being criticized in Brussels for his increasingly authoritarian rule. EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly last week demanded the Commission explain why the pact with Tunisia does not violate human rights standards.

Members of the European Parliament have also raised this question, pointing out that hundreds of refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan countries in Tunisia have allegedly been taken to the desert near the Libyan border in recent months and left to fend for themselves.

Tunisia was outraged by the criticism and refused entry to a European Parliament investigative delegation last week.

The North African country is struggling with high debt and a lack of liquidity and is suffering from bread and electricity shortages. Its hopes for a $1.9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are being dashed by its refusal to implement IMF-mandated reforms.

Saied gained sweeping powers in 2021, dissolving parliament before adopting a new constitution that gives him near-complete authority. He said his actions were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos and rampant corruption.

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