Answers to the civic accesses requested by some ASGI members to the Italian Ministry of Foreing Affairs (MfA)
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has signed a technical agreement on 9 December 2020 with the UN Office for Services and Projects (UNOPS) to implement the “Support to Tunisia’s border control and management of migration flows” project. It aims at supporting the North African country in border control activities and in fighting migrant trafficking. 8 million euro have been allocated to the project from the “Rewarding Fund for repatriation policies”.
The funding comes from the “Rewarding Fund for repatriation policies”, which aims at supporting financially joined activities with third countries that proved to be particularly willing to collaborate in repatriations.
The Fund has been created in the framework of Italian Ministry of Foreing Affairs budget with Legislative Decree 53/2019 (Art. 12) and it aims at funding cooperative actions with rewarding purposes for the special collaboration in the readmission sector (Art 12, cl.1). The Fund allocation for the year 2019 starts at 2 million euros, however, article 12 cl. 2 states that this allocation can be boosted using part of the resources mentioned in art 1, cl. 767, budget L 145/2018 – i.e. the reception chapter – if unused by the Interior Ministry.
Some ASGI members submitted a FOI (Freedom of Information) request to the Italian Ministry of Foreing Affairs in order to have access to the administrative documents of the “Support to Tunisia’s border control and management of migration flows” project. The Ministry allowed them to access the following documents:
Content of documents
The Decree 4100/78 on the allocation of 8 million to UNOPS underlines Tunisia’s commitment to readmissions. The Tunisian nationality is currently the first in terms of number of repatriations and of presences in the Italian CPR (Repatriation Centers).
In fact, since August 2020 the repatriations of Tunisian citizens have in some cases increased fivefold, as data on repatriations from August 2020 to January 2021 shows.
The Technical Agreement and the Project’s Concept Note allow retracing the activities foreseen by the Fund. The program’s goal is to provide a maintenance service for six patrol boats for 2 years, in support of Tunisian National Maritime Guard. The service will cover the ordinary maintenance, the emergency maintenance and spare parts for the six patrol boats.
The total duration of the project is 33 months – from December 2020 to December 2023. The duration includes a 3-month initial phase in which to define needs, 4 months of supply process, a 24-month contract for the boat’s maintenance and 2 months for the closure of the activities.
The first phase of the program is the Definition of needs and it is labelled as the “cornerstone” of the program in the UNOPS Concept Note. During this 3-month period, MAECI will coordinate with the Tunisian Interior Ministry in order to define the specific supply needs for the project.
According to the activity plan as defined in the Concept Note, the supply process coordinated by UNOPS will start as soon as it receives the details of the needed supply. UNOPS will later deal with supplying goods, services and provisions; shipping and delivering the equipment and the provisions to the final destination specified by the Tunisian Interior Ministry.
In the Concept Note and in the Agreement, human rights are never explicitly mentioned, except for a hint in the risk analysis paragraph (Concept Note, paragraph 9). It is mentioned the possibility of “carrying out a risk assessment to ensure that the Tunisian authorities wouldn’t be inclined to violate the international agreements on migration and human rights”.
An expected commitment
During the visit of the Italian Ministers of Interior and of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia last August, Minister Lamorgese mentioned the upcoming Italian economic aid to strengthen the operational capacities of the Tunisian maritime authorities. On that occasion, some ASGI members submitted various requests of civic access to the Interior Ministry to obtain further information on the funding announced during the meeting with the Tunisian counterpart. On that occasion, however, the Public Administration rejected the request as no commitment was yet formalized.
The “Support to Tunisia’s border control and management of migration flows” project is funded with 8 million euros from the Rewarding Fund for repatriation policies and it seems to correspond to the financial commitments taken in the summit forecast of August 2020.