TUNIS, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- More than 13,500 Tunisian migrants reached Italian coasts illegally in the last four years, according to data published by the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights on Sunday.
"From January to the end of November in 2018, the number of irregular migrants exceeded 6,000, against 569 in 2015. 67 percent of the people who left the Tunisian territory in a non-regulatory way were between the age of 20 and 30 years old. Most of them were unemployed or in precarious jobs," Massoud Romdhani, president of the forum, told Xinhua.
A 32-year-old Tunisian waiter said he almost lost his life when he sailed to Italy's Lampedusa in a boat a few years ago.
"We were about twenty people when our wooden ship was overturned off the sea," he said on condition of anonymity.
"I was very close to death. My only hope was to hang on to this overturned ship," the Tunisian waiter added.
The tragic adventure has left him a psychological trauma, as his close friend drowned with many others during the illegal sailing.
"The illegal immigration can be explained in particular by the high cost of living, the poverty that affects 15 percent of the population, the poor performance of successive governments since 2011 and a high rate of unemployment especially in the disadvantaged regions," Romdhani noted.
According to the National Institute of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Tunisia reached 15.4 percent in the second quarter of 2018.
Foued Gorbeli, a Tunisian sociologist, said people prefer to save more than 3,000 Tunisian dinars (1,005 U.S. dollars) for an extremely dangerous trip in the small hope of reaching the European coast.
"Despair and lack of promising horizons push these young people toward the unknown world with the hope of changing their living conditions," Gorbeli said.
According to Romdhani, 6,151 Tunisian migrants were held in Italian detention centers, representing 89 percent of the total number of migrants arrested by the Italian authorities in 2017.
He stressed the importance of mobilizing sociologists and psychologists to examine ways of getting young people out of despair, while calling on politicians to create mechanisms that can help re-establish their confidence in a better future in the country.