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Germany's Merkel strikes immigration deal on visit to Tunisia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire for Germany’s open-door migration policy, so striking a deal with Tunisia to bring back at least some irregular migrants was a necessary step for her to defuse some of the criticism.
Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi - RTS11C5L

In mid-February, Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed arrived in Berlin to discuss the issues the two countries have over security and migration. A few weeks prior, Anis Amri, a Tunisian national who was living illegally in Germany under six aliases after his asylum application was denied, drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood. A dozen people were killed.

Germany and Tunisia have long had a mutually positive relationship, bolstered by the European Union granting Tunisia privileged partnership status in 2012. Since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, Germany has been a vocal supporter of the country’s democratic transition; several German nongovernmental organizations have set up offices in Tunisia. With its proximity to Libya, Tunisia is also geostrategically important to Germany. But “the security concern only emerged recently. Prior to that, migration was not a controversial issue in the Tunisian-German relations as it is now,” said Nizar Amri, a research fellow at the Tunisian-German research group Tunisia in Transition.

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