Perdition: distress – unhappiness – misery – disarray – destitution – adversity – anguish – disgrace – pain – danger – loss – debauchery – dissipation.
She is tall, beautiful, and strong despite the pain and tears in the corner of her eyes, and her impressive voice carries, standing before me with the photo of two presidents, Mattarella the President of Italy and Said the President of Tunisia.
I have come to talk about the 11-year of pain of 806 mothers from all the regions of the country that I represent, who have been affected by the precariousness and the drama of the clandestine emigration of their children. Why did our children leave? Why, in the past, did youth use to leave with a visa and then disappear, it's true! And now, why have they been leaving for the last 11 years, even without telling their parents, desperate, with death or life in front of their eyes and crossing the sea at the risk of their lives? Why did we make the 2011 revolution? If not for work, freedom and dignity, where is the work? Where is freedom? And where is the dignity? On paper. I am here, but other mothers have died of grief, really died, and will not be able to come anymore. What has the parliament done "that we do not regret"! and that has taken our pensions and contributions for their shameful salaries with no service to the people! Poverty and democracy cannot go together. Freedom and perfidy cannot go together.
Today illegal migration affects all social classes, from the simple worker to the student and even the air hostess who has lost her job. The 25th of July was an expected date for our republic, freezing the activities of the parliament was a blessed date but where is the follow-up! Where are the promises the President made to us to do justice to the injustice that successive governments have done to us since 2011! How many unemployed graduates have left, died at sea! And continue to leave! I did not only contribute to the demographic development of my country, I contributed with children who studied, who succeeded in their studies to contribute to the development of their country, to realize their dreams and ambitions towards a better future, not to die at sea, humiliated and desperate for having been rejected by institutions and ignored for more than ten years!
A strong testimony from Mounira Chaqrawi, during one of the preparatory meetings of the 1st Congress of Social and Citizen Movements that will take place next December in Tunis, organised by the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, mother of one of the young unemployed graduates who also left and died at sea, and president of the association Allmassir jeunes méditerranée, whose main objectives are to contribute to the search for young people who have disappeared, to take charge and make them aware of the negative aspects of illegal migration. And who, in collaboration with Soltani Imed, president of the association La Terre pour Tous, have organised a memorial "Memory of 10 years of pain", a series of photos commemorating the young people who have disappeared and a symbolic, Permanent Tribunal of the People, "where are our children”? Two characters bruised by the loss of a child and who, by force of circumstance, had to take the lead to make their voices heard.
12,837 young Tunisians have crossed the sea to Italy since the beginning of the year 2021. Our young people, the force of tomorrow, are leaving the country, disillusioned. Whether they are in the north or the south, with the economic crisis, unemployment, the high cost of living, and little hope for the future, they are all leaving, either from the countryside to the cities or to neighbouring countries and even far away. Their backpacks full of dreams and plans, a few coins in their pockets, and there they go, trying their luck elsewhere, dreaming of a better future.
How many have died since the Union for the Mediterranean Congress in Marseille? The failure of the Union for the Mediterranean under the aegis of France
A small return to the past would be appropriate since from 21 to 23 June 2019 Marseille was the capital of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean, with more than 900 participants in the 30 workshops and plenary sessions of the Etats Généraux de la Ville and the Forum of the Inhabitants of the Méditerranean, an alternative forum of the International Alliance of Inhabitants, which was completely self-financed and self-managed and which underlined the failure of the Union for the Mediterranean in Congress on those same days, invited by President Macron.
This alternative Forum debated, among others, with Raphaël Pitti, Councilor Delegate for Humanitarian and Social Emergencies of the city of Metz, who presented the policies for the reception of migrants and underlined the availability of involving ANVITA, which networks cities in solidarity, in the support of the proposals of the Forum, starting from the World Identity Card. Giuseppe Caccia, head of the Mediterranean - Saving Humans mission, who was stranded in Italy because of the seizure of the ship Mare Jonio, intervened via Skype to denounce the criminalisation of rescue activities and to relaunch the network with the cities of solidarity on both sides of the Mediterranean. Christian Leblanc, Etats Généraux des Migrants de Marseille, underlined the link between freedom of movement and freedom of settlement, to move from emergency policies to policies for the social rights of all, with the Palermo Charter as a pillar.
The lengthening of the duration of studies is one of the factors
The lengthening of the duration of studies, one of the factors between the class struggle, generational conflicts, and the global economic crisis, the young people of the 21st century have already endured, suggested, and drank misery and seen their dreams destroyed.
Whether they are students, apprentices, or workers, mass unemployment is around every corner. It is not surprising that new entrants to the labour market and employees on temporary contracts are the first victims given the high proportion of fixed-term employment, precarious employment in temporary jobs and internships, absence of a proactive policy to share the cost of the structural adjustment programme (partial unemployment, collective reduction of working time, negotiated wage cuts, etc.), and the activity rates of older workers which have continued to rise.
The lengthening of the duration of studies would be one of the factors, the government not having set up a policy aiming at favouring early retirement, under a system unfavourable to the hiring of young people, social protection unsuited to the lengthening of the duration of studies and to the difficulties of insertion on the labour market, whether they are graduates or workers, nothing changes, the cost of living increases at a high speed, the basic necessities, public transport, rents: In short, poverty has become younger, our young people are being sacrificed by irresponsible public policies which generate and increase inequalities, and which accumulate over the young years of these future adults, disappointment after disappointment, deprivation, bitterness, anger and unemployment.
From dropping out of school, high school or university, there is only one step, and even with a diploma or even a doctorate, it's the same thing: a downward spiral, from one small job to another, without social security coverage, from student to worker, and even to street vendor, and then nothing, the horizon is blocked, delinquency for some, and suicide for others, and then the dream of leaving. Some leave, their papers in order and succeed, others disappear, turn to illegality, whether they are from the north or the south, unemployment is there.
In the West or in Africa, in our case today, these public policies are the main causes of a deep societal malaise, accentuating the feeling of injustice among young people and the regression of society, and which, from one failure of strategy to another and from one bad governance of the country to another, have pushed young people to leave, whether by regular routes to Europe or by choosing irregular routes from Africa and Asia, which lead them directly to death. Instead of preventing unnecessary and avoidable loss of life, the states of North African and other regions are pushing students, graduates, doctors, nurses, policemen, unemployed people and even whole families to brave all dangers to find a dignified life and freedom.
The year 1990 was a pivotal year, recording the beginning of a clandestine migration boom
The decision to impose the visa in 1990 by the European Union, and to slow down and put in difficulty the freedom of movement, did not prevent migration, on the contrary, it pushed a great number of young Tunisians to emigrate in phantom boats, to finish at the bottom of the sea. With Tunisia's geographical location close to the European borders, 50 km from Italy starting from Bizerte, the northern side of the country is becoming a transit area for illegal migration, not only from Tunisia but from the whole African continent and even from East Asia. Those who manage to get through are incarcerated, risk being deported, or are locked up in camps in inhuman conditions.
Studies by experts at the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights show that there are two exponential booms in clandestine emigration. The first in 2011, just after the fall of the Ben Ali regime, with 28,829 clandestine migrants, and the second in 2020 with the period of lockdown due to the covid 19 pandemic. The clandestine networks jumped on the opportunity of the unprecedented situation in 2011, with an absence of law enforcement on certain coasts, as the priority was above all to maintain security in the country and prevent territorial trespassing.
In 2020, in the belief that lockdown would slow down crossings to Italy. Just in September: 139 unaccompanied minors and 68 accompanied minors, 52 women and 1,386 men.
Ten years of uncertainty, a catastrophic political record, a bankrupt economic balance, an entire generation sacrificed, marginalised, excluded, unemployed and above all in extreme precariousness. For young Tunisians, the choice to leave, even illegally despite the risks of death, has been and continues to be, their refusal of the political, economic and social situation of the country, the lack of resources due to the debt of municipalities and to the sovereign debt of the state, and the weight of the financial bubble. The fact of crossing the Mediterranean is for them an escape from the precariousness and marginalization by successive governments since 2011 under the leadership of Islamist parties in power, especially Ennahdha. They have not paid attention to young people, too busy to enrich themselves through donations and loans granted by the countries allied with Tunisia for development projects addressed to these same young people, but the majority of which has still not seen the light of day.
The Mediterranean Sea, in addition to having become a tangled map blocking some fishermen from fishing, and allowing others to abuse it, since 2014 until today, according to the International Migration Organization, have swallowed at least 22,842 people died and disappeared in only 8 years: a hecatomb!
Despite the shock of sinking boats and ships carrying thousands of women and children, clandestine migration continues every day after ten years of revolution, revealing the path of a confused and stumbling democratic transition of the Tunisian state. Our young people are leaving, but there is also the escalation of systematic violations against sub-Saharan migrants observed and documented in recent months. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights refuses to make Tunisia a platform for disembarking and sorting migrants, yielding to European pressure - and places moral, political and legal responsibility on the European Union and its member states for imposing unfair channels of cooperation on migration that have contributed to the increase in deaths at sea and exacerbated the migrants crisis in the South.
There are now 91,306 people up to 31 October this year from the South, including 52,465 to Italy, according to UNHCR data, who have crossed the Mediterranean Sea with their heads full of dreams and their hearts full of fear. And the more severe the control becomes, the more the smugglers increase, diversify and find new ways to reach the coast and cross.
From unfavourable economic agreements to unfavourable economic agreements, as a result of the crisis, the lack of concrete proposals from the presidents governing the countries on the Mediterranean coast, the weakness of alternatives due to divisions, no restrictive policy has succeeded in stopping migration, nor have the prison sentences incurred by any smuggler, migrant, or inhabitant hosting a migrant.
Hope could only come from solidarity from below, to make the Mediterranean a real "Mare Nostrum" for all through the convergence of all initiatives of co-construction of public policies, whether at local, national, European and international level.