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Tunisia Minister Sacked & Arrested In Scandal Over Illegal Waste From Italy

The Guardian, UK: Tunisia’s environment minister has been arrested following the attempted importation of household and hospital waste from Italy.

Mustapha Aroui was dismissed from his post and subsequently arrested on Sunday, along with several other people, including senior customs officials, members of its waste management agency, Agence Nationale de Gestion des Déchets (ANGed) and a Tunisian diplomat based in Naples.

In total, 23 people were taken in for questioning over assisting in the importation of household and medical waste from southern Italy in contravention of Tunisia’s environment laws.

Aroui has not responded publicly to the allegations.

In July, more than 200 containers listed as storing plastic scraps for recycling were impounded at the port city of Sousse.

Customs officers discovered the cargo was made up of decaying household and medical waste shipped from Italy for disposal in Tunisia, a country already struggling with the mounting challenges of its own waste management.

Activists protested outside the port when news of the cargo broke in November. The government promised an official investigation.

The prime minister, Elyes Fakhfakh, resigned in July following revelations over a potential conflict of interest over his involvement in waste management companies. He has denied any conflict of interest.

Fakhfakh has denied any involvement in the new case.

Waste management has proved to be an increasingly lucrative area for private investment within Tunisia, with little public attention being paid to many of the companies’ dealings or their outcomes.

Ines Labiadh, environmental justice coordinator at the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, said the case highlighted a larger network of “failures and mismanagement” within Tunisia’s environmental management, with government agencies suffering through a drought of investment or stymied by corruption.

“The environment has become easy prey for individuals and economic actors for whom several sectors are extremely lucrative,” she said, pointing to government failures in regulating waste management, illegal tourist developments and the illicit trade in clandestinely felled timber from Tunisia’s forested north.

ANGed and Tunisia’s environment ministry have been contacted for a response.

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