Tunisia moves to return girl who reached Italy alone

Tunisia said Wednesday it plans to repatriate a four-year-old girl who reached Italy aboard a boat with other irregular migrants but without her family.

The state “is taking care of the girl’s interests and completing the necessary measures to ensure her return to the country as soon as possible,” the Tunisian family ministry said.

A Tunisian delegation is scheduled to meet on Friday with the Italian judge overseeing the case in Sicily.

The girl’s parents had planned to leave as a family along with her brother, aged seven, on a makeshift boat from the coastal town of Sayada and head towards the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Her parents, street vendors in coastal Tunisia, were detained last week before being released, a court official in the city of Monastir told AFP.

The owner of the boat and other migrants have also been detained, the court official said.

A deep economic crisis is pushing growing numbers of Tunisians to attempt to reach Europe, particularly Lampedusa which is less than 130 kilometers (80 miles) off the coast.

Authorities in the North African country of 12 million, under pressure from Europe to stem the flow, are struggling to intercept those who leave.

according to the FTDES rights group, some 2,600 Tunisian minors, more than two-thirds of them unaccompanied, reached Italy between January and August, out of a total of around 13,000 Tunisian migrants.