Italy is prepared to allow more Tunisians to reach its shores legally in exchange for greater efforts to cut irregular migration from its North African neighbour, Rome's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Rome wants to cooperate with Tunis to "reduce irregular immigration and boost regular immigration", Antonio Tajani said on his first visit to Tunisia since a far-right government came to power in Italy in October, vowing to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
Italy is "ready to increase the number of regular immigrants, trained in Tunisia, who can come to work in agriculture and industry", he added.
Tajani, who made the remarks in a video published by the Tunisian presidency after he met with President Kais Saied, did not suggest how many visas could be granted or say whether a formal agreement was under discussion.
He called irregular immigration "a plague for Tunisia as it is for Italy", adding that both nations wanted to find "the right solutions".
Tunisia, where a grinding economic crisis has pushed thousands to seek better lives in Europe, is also a major transit country for migrants, often from sub-Saharan Africa.
Many attempt dangerous journeys on unseaworthy boats bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) off Tunisia's coast.
Italian authorities say more than 32,000 irregular migrants including 18,000 Tunisians reached Italy from Tunisia last year.
"We must work to allow young Africans to dream of staying at home," Tajani said, calling for more investment on the African continent and announcing an upcoming business forum aimed at "boosting the presence of Italian companies in Tunisia".
He and Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi also met their Tunisian counterparts, Othman Jerandi and Taoufik Charfeddine respectively.