German Chancellor Merkel heads to Egypt, Tunisia to reduce migrant flows

Within the same context, the two sides signed a migration agreement according to which 1,500 illegal Tunisian immigrants will be repatriated.

"The visit of Angela Merkel shows a profound change in the relationships between the two countries.a change that crowns a fruitful cooperation and a series of mutual visits", said Caid Essebsi.

Speaking in Tunis, Merkel announced €250 million (US$264 million) in development aid.

She also invited Tunisia to attend the G20 summit held on July in German city of Hamburg.

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"Without a political stabilisation of Libya, we won't be able to stop the human traffickers operating out of Libya who are responsible for by far the most arrivals in Italy", Merkel said in her latest weekly podcast.

Essebsi said Tunisia would send a delegation to verify the identities of those returning.

She added: "We ensure the freedom of expression in Germany".

The German government will also talk about both Egypt and Tunisia taking back asylum-seekers who have been rejected in Germany.

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Anger had previously been fanned on New Year's Eve of 2015-16, when large groups of mostly North African men sexually assaulted and robbed hundreds of women in the western city of Cologne.

The visit was also a chance for Merkel to pledge support for a country often hailed as a rare success story of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the region and toppled autocrats including longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"The fact that you as a freely elected democratic parliament exist is a legacy of the great courage of the citizens of your country", Merkel said.

The trip is part of a larger diplomatic push by Merkel, who previous year visited Mali, Niger and Ethiopia.

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Merkel will visit Egypt on Thursday and Tunisia on Friday.


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