News / Africa

Some Tunisians Continue to Risk Their Lives to Get to Europe

Tunisian man shows a photograph of his relative, who died while trying to reach Italy illegally, at coastal town Zarzis in southeastern Tunisia, February 18, 2011
Tunisian man shows a photograph of his relative, who died while trying to reach Italy illegally, at coastal town Zarzis in southeastern Tunisia, February 18, 2011

Thousands of Tunisians have tried crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since a January uprising toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Now Europe is braced for a new tide of would-be immigrants - fleeing the chaos in Libya. For VOA, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how immigration has brought hope - and loss - to the residents of the Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis.

The sea is an essential part of life for the 140,000 residents of Zarzis, located in southeastern Tunisia not far from the Libyan border. Many of the residents here depend on fishing and on the European tourists who flock to beachside resorts.

But for Hana Zair and her family, the sea has brought tragedy. Hana's brother Mohammed and her nephew Aballah were among thousands of Tunisians who boarded rickety boats this month to cross the Mediterranean for a better life in Europe. They paid the equivalent of $1,400 for the journey - an enormous sum here.

"He's lost in the sea, and I don't have any information about him," Zair said. "And also the son of my sister Mounir. He was also with him."

The family claims Tunisia's coast guard deliberately rammed into the boat the young men were on. Some of those on board were saved, they said. Five people drowned. Dozens of others are missing, including the two young men. Their accusations could not be independently confirmed.

There are questions about why these youths would want to leave their country weeks after a popular uprising toppled Tunisia's longtime president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Many here are hopeful the revolt will usher in true democracy.

Resident Walid Fellah has filmed the story of these young men lost at sea for his website Zarzis TV.

Fellah says lots of Zarzis residents now work in France. They come back in the summer with cars and luxuries many here don't have. Zarzis youth are searching for the opportunities they can't find in Tunisia.

The economy around here is based on agriculture, tourism and fishing. All have been struggling recently. Hana Zair's brother worked for a hotel.

"He go to search for better life. Because Tunisia is jobless," she said. "Because tourism isn't good here because of the revolution."

Fisherman Joar Goubba was on the same boat that sunk on its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa. He survived.

Goubba says if he has another chance, he will try to go again. He is the breadwinner for his family of nine.

Roughly 5,000 Tunisians have arrived in Lampedusa this month alone, prompting Italy to seek European help to patrol the Mediterranean. In Zarzis, the drownings have prompted a lull in departures. But maybe not for long.

Now Europe is braced for another possible mass influx of immigrants. Libyans escaping the uprising in their home country. But the most immediate fallout is being felt here in Zarzis. The town is sheltering thousands of Egyptians who have fled across the Libyan border, about 65 kilometers away.

Residents of Zarzis are rolling out the welcome mat some youth hope to experience someday - in Europe, if they ever get there.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid