The Italian coast guard has rescued more than seven hundred (700) illegal migrants off the coast of Tunisia in their attempt to reach Europe by crossing with fishing boats.
The spokesman for the Tunisian National Guard said Thursday that the coastguard had intercepted 2,034 migrants since Wednesday, among them nine Tunisians, and recovered the bodies of seven others.
A rights group said five migrants drowned and another 28 were missing Wednesday after their boat capsized off Tunisia.
Images provided by the Italian Coast Guard show their boat early this morning rescuing another boat carrying what they say are 295 migrants in distress 90 miles off the Calabrian coast.
More than 20,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s shores so far this year, compared to around 6,000 in the same period in 2022 and 2021, according to interior ministry figures.
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“The bodies of five migrants were found and five others were rescued, but 28 are still missing,” said Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES).
He said the boat had sunk “because it was overloaded” with 38 passengers, mostly from Ivory Coast.
The boat had left the coastal region of Sfax to try to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The sinking is the latest such tragedy in the central Mediterranean, known as the world’s deadliest migration route.
It comes a month after Tunisian President Kais Saied made an inflammatory speech accusing migrants from sub-Saharan Africa of being a “plot” against Tunisia and the source of a crime wave.
His comments sparked violence against black migrants and landlords, fearing fines, evicted hundreds who are now camping out in the streets of Tunis.
Some 21,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are in Tunisia, a country of 12 million people, according to estimates. (AFP)