In an interview with African Manager, Belgacem Sabri, Secretary of State for Migration and Social Integration said that “the new national migration strategy, developed in light of the expectations of expatriates, aims to defend their rights while actively involving them in the political and economic transitions of the country. He further stated that efforts continue to revise the agreements with European countries regarding the easing of visa-granting procedures.
What are the recommendations adopted at the first economic forum of Tunisians abroad, held on August 20?
Recommendations focus on a series of measures, beginning with incentives to encourage the Tunisian Diaspora to join in the dynamics of the five-year plan 2016/2020.
They involve essentially informing the community about the investment opportunity at local, regional and national levels; while highlighting other measures that the government is putting in place to facilitate investment. These will be supplemented by the investment code, which is currently under consideration at the House of People’s Representatives (HPR).
We also work to inform our citizens about the contacts we are currently conducting with banks and other support agencies to facilitate access to bank loans.
Other proposals have been made about the banking sector. Moreover, the emphasis was placed during the holding of this economic forum on the importance of creating the Bank of the Post as is the case in Morocco. This is important especially as the Post is known for its regional penetration, especially as this proposal would allow it to have its banking system.
Let’s talk about the strategy developed by your department. What are its broad lines?
The national migration strategy revolves around five priority objectives.
The first objective is to strengthen governance in migration management in order to improve the institutions that accompany it. As such, interest has focused on the establishment of a coordination mechanism of various departments and bodies involved in migration (MSA, MFA, MI, Customs, and ATCT and the Ministry of Employment) and strengthening the culture of consultation with representatives of the Diaspora and associations of civil society while developing migration-related knowledge.
This will go through strengthening the National Observatory of Migration in order to generate an accurate and scientifically established database about the state of affairs of migration. Add to this the development of a national platform on studies and research on migration and the databases.
The second objective relates to the protection of rights and interests of Tunisian migrants while strengthening links with the mother country. That’s why the training of social attachés will be strengthened to be better adapted to the different socio-cultural contexts of host countries and cultural spaces. Added to the improvement of services provided to Tunisian expatriates
The third key objective involves enhancing the contribution of migration to socio-economic development at local, regional and national levels. Moreover, interest will be taken in the programs of migrants’ integration in the national economy and the contribution of migration to socio-economic development.
Decentralized cooperation initiatives could be promoted with the elected representatives of regions hosting Tunisian migrants, and that, for the purpose of supporting economic development efforts.
The fourth objective is to promote legal migration of Tunisians while preventing illegal migration. This will be done through providing potential migrants with the necessary information on the labor market of the destination country in order to ensure their better integration into the working environment. Exploration of overseas work opportunities will be supported by vitalising public and private employment intermediaries both in Tunisia and in the host country.
The final objective will be obviously to protect the rights of foreign migrants and asylum seekers. Indeed, internal migration is a new phenomenon that continues to grow. Several Libyan, Syrian and other Palestinian migrants want to settle in Tunisia. However, they found themselves handicapped by the absence of legislation recognizing migrants’ right to residence, work and political asylum. This is why efforts are being made to develop a legislative framework enshrining the rights of migrants by enabling their integration in the economic and social fabric.
What is the exact number of foreigners seeking asylum in Tunisia?
Honestly, we have not accurate figures. We have asked the Interior Ministry to provide us with a detailed assessment of non-Tunisians settled in Tunisia, but unfortunately, we received the number of arrivals and departures and not that of the stock. This is why determining the number of non-Tunisians remains one of the objectives of the strategy put in place as part of the National Migration Observatory.
What would be the date of completion of the national migration strategy?
The strategy is ready in our State Department. It has already been sent to all partners to discuss it within the framework of the first meeting of the Observatory and the ministries concerned. It was also sent to international partners and the international association responsible for the migration issue. We await their recommendations.
So the strategy is finalized and will soon be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval. Besides, we have started to operationalize this strategy, which will be split into an action plan for the next six years, through the transformation of strategic objectives into intermediate goals.
What about the simplification of visa-granting procedures for some European countries?
Our goal for the current step is to review all agreements that pertain among others to the relaxation of the visa issuing procedures. Incidentally, we tried to contact several foreign embassies in Tunisia and we expect better in this issue.
This is important, especially as the majority of agreements signed earlier are not up to our expectations, since a large majority of Tunisians wishing to obtain a visa still faces several problems. This is particularly true for students and people wanting to join their families abroad…
I think this issue is not moving forward at the desired pace. And that’s why we try in coordination with the Foreign Ministry to defend their interests in the sense of a much larger easing.
Have you seen a positive reaction from some European officials like the French?
We are currently conducting a series of regular contacts with most European ambassadors. Besides, we just received the European Commissioner for Migration and we took the opportunity to get our message across. Indeed, we wish more effort to further facilitate procedures, but also the preservation of the rights and interests of Tunisians, especially those wanting to join European countries.