14 more migrants’ bodies recovered after shipwreck

13 April 2023 – 12:16

Tunis, Tunisia
Fourteen more bodies of sub-Saharan African migrants have been recovered off the coast of Tunisia, bringing to 24 the death toll from the sinking of a boat heading illegally to Europe, the coastguard announced on Thursday.

The coast guard announced on Wednesday that it had recovered 10 bodies of sub-Saharan African migrants after the shipwreck, which occurred on Tuesday in the Mediterranean off Sfax in east-central Tunisia.

The bodies of 14 other migrants, including six women, as well as that of the Tunisian “captain” of the sunken boat were recovered during the search operations conducted by the coast guard, the spokesman for the Tunisian National Guard said in a statement on Thursday.

The spokesman also announced that 41 Tunisian migrants, including five women and nine children, had been “rescued” off the coast of Sousse, in the east of the country.

Dozens of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have died in recent weeks after makeshift boats carrying them illegally to Europe sank off the Tunisian coast.

Tunisia, whose coastline is less than 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, regularly records attempts by migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, to leave for Italy.
The departures intensified after a violent speech on 21 February by the Tunisian president Kais Saied criticising illegal immigration.

After this speech, a significant proportion of the 21,000 sub-Saharan African nationals officially registered in Tunisia, most of them in an irregular situation, lost their jobs, usually informal, and their housing overnight, as a result of the campaign against illegal immigrants.

Most African migrants arrive in Tunisia and then attempt to migrate illegally by sea to Europe.

On 7 April, the National Guard announced that it had rescued or intercepted “14,406 people, including 13,138 from sub-Saharan Africa” in the first three months of the year, more than five times the number recorded for the same period in 2022.

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 14,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year, compared to just over 5,300 during the same period last year.

Thousands of migrants have reached the shores of Italy, including the island of Lampedusa, in recent days after making the perilous crossing from North Africa in makeshift boats.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk expressed concern on Thursday about the “precarious situation” of migrants attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, calling for “concerted efforts to ensure their swift rescue and dignified, effective and thorough treatment in a safe place”.

“We are seeing a sharp increase in the number of desperate people putting their lives at risk,” Türk added in a statement. “We cannot afford to procrastinate and get bogged down in yet another debate about responsibility. Human lives are at stake.

Agence France-Presse



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