Tunisian toddler reaches Italy on migrant boat, without parents

Friday, Oct 21, 2022

TUNIS: A Tunisian toddler aged just three has reached Italy aboard a boat with other irregular migrants, but without her parents, who have been detained, authorities said on Thursday.

“The prosecution has opened an investigation and the girl´s parents have been detained on suspicion of ´joining a gang with a view to illegally crossing maritime borders´”, National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli told journalists.

The girl´s parents had planned to leave as a family along with her brother aged seven, on a makeshift boat from the coastal town of Sayada and head towards the Italian island of Lampedusa some 150 kilometres (90 miles) away.

But according to the FTDES rights group which closely tracks clandestine migration from Tunisia, the father had “handed his daughter over to the smuggler on the boat” before retracing his steps from the embarcation point “to help his wife and son who were far behind”. “In the meantime, the boat left for Lampedusa,” it said.

The girl´s parents, street vendors in the eastern coastal region of Tunisia, had paid nearly 24,000 dinars (about $7,400) to attempt the crossing, the FTDES and the Interior Ministry said.

More than 2,600 Tunisian minors, more than two-thirds of them unaccompanied, reached Italy between January and August, out of a total of around 13,000 Tunisian migrants. Tunisian authorities, under pressure from Europe to stem the flow, are struggling to launch enough patrols to intercept those who leave.