Tunisia arrests ‘pirates’ after migrants robbed at seaThu, 31 Aug 2023 16:52:04 GMT

Tunisian police arrested four men, including a fisherman, on suspicion of maritime piracy after the robbery of a boat taking Tunisian migrants to Italy, an official said on Thursday.Police intervened and arrested the four Tunisians on Saturday after one of the migrants posted a video online showing men taking the engine of the migrants’ dinghy, said Farid Ben Jha, spokesman for a court in Monastir.The dinghy, engine and an unspecified sum of money were later seized from their homes, he told AFP, adding that the four were accused of “criminal association with the aim of attacking people and property”.It is not the first case of piracy targeting the thousands of migrants who have sought to make the treacherous sea journey from North Africa to Europe.Two weeks ago, prosecutors in Italy said six Tunisian “pirate fishermen” had been detained after threatening to set adrift a boat carrying 49 migrants unless those aboard handed over the boat’s engine and their money.In July, the same source said four Tunisians, the captain and three crew members, were accused of forcing migrants to hand over their phones and cash in exchange for being towed closer to Italy’s Lampedusa island.The Italian news agency Ansa said investigations revealed that some Tunisian fishermen had turned to piracy as it was more lucrative.So far this year, around 113,000 migrants have landed in Italy, two-thirds of them from Tunisia and the rest from neighbouring Libya.Departures of sub-Saharan migrants have risen since spring, when Tunisian President Kais Said in a speech alleged that “hordes” of irregular migrants were causing crime and posing a demographic threat to the mainly Arab country.Tunisians have also opted for the journey across the Mediterranean in growing numbers as the country faces a grinding economic crisis and severe shortages of basic staples.