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Tunisia Invites Algerians to Attend Trial of Missing Persons

Tunisia Invites Algerians to Attend Trial of Missing Persons

Saturday, 16 April, 2022 - 08:30
Illegal migrants are seen on a boat after being rescued by the Tunisian navy off the coast near Ben Guerdane, Tunisia (File photo: Reuters)

Algerians followed the trial of 13 people, who disappeared 14 years ago in Tunisia.

The missing persons were thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while crossing to Italy and appeared for the first time on trial in the el-Kef city, northwest Tunisia.

The families of the detainees told Algerian media that "a feeling of joy mixed with fear and bewilderment overwhelmed them" after the police of Annaba, near the Tunisian border, asked them to travel to el-Kef to attend the trial of their children on Apr 15, without revealing the charges.

The mother of a young men said that she suffered for 14 years searching for a trace of her missing son, and it was finally revealed that he was being held in Tunisia.

She asserted that the Algerian authorities had spared no effort to find them, adding that she hoped to return home with them.

A brother of one of the detainees, who was preparing to travel to El-Kef, confirmed that he tried in vain to inquire about his brother's fate after being informed of the trial.

"I do not know what the charge was in Tunisia, nor how he was found there, as he was migrating illegally to Italy."

The incident dates back to the summer of 2008 when a group of unemployed young men from the Oum El-Bouaghi region traveled to the coastal Annaba to board a boat heading to Italy.

The boat approached Sardinia island. It was intercepted by the Italian coast guard, who handed them over to the Tunisian coast guard, thinking they were Tunisians.

The sea routes between Tunisia and Sardinia are active in the summer.

The migrants' families did not know in advance of the incident until news broke out that a group of men had left the neighborhood. After years of searching for them, the families lost hope of finding them and believed they had drowned in the sea.

The relatives are unaware why the Tunisian authorities kept their detention a secret for so long and why the Algerian government was not informed of this, despite their close cooperation in combating migration and smuggling.

Thousands of Algerians and Tunisians immigrate to Spain and Italy via the Mediterranean every year. Last year, Spanish authorities said 10,000 Algerians had arrived on its coasts illegally.

The Algerian Ministry of Defense announced that about 5,000 undocumented migrants were intercepted in 2021 off the country's coast.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that at least 309 migrants of Maghreb nationalities, including 13 children, have been killed west of the Mediterranean since 2021.

The boats are often not equipped to cross to safety and their engines often fail halfway, leading to arguments between the migrants and the people driving the vessels assigned to deliver them to the northern bank of the Mediterranean.

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