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Tunisians are Now the Largest Group of Nationals Arriving in Italy

In the first six months of 2019, 1,277 arrivals from Tunisia were intercepted by Italian authorities. This year, that number rose to 6,628. In July alone, as the pandemic took hold and the waters calmed, 4,252 migrants were intercepted by Italian authorities, compared with 502 the previous year. These numbers do not include those who landed in Italy undetected. Unemployment, one of the key triggers for the 2011 revolution, has not decreased after nine years of stagnation. Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate across Tunisia was around 16%. In some areas, such as the governorate in which Zarzis sits, it reached 30%. While images of Tunisians arriving in Italy apparently dressed for their holidays pulling suitcases on wheels and carrying poodles have provided ample fodder for the country’s right-wing commentators, there is little doubt of the poverty that grips many in Zarzis. Increasingly, entire families are among those departing, with more mothers and children now making the perilous 206-mile journey to connect with relatives already in Europe. Perhaps understandably, none of those approached by the Guardian was willing to be quoted.