After an Italy-bound boat filled with migrants sank off Tunisia last week, 38 more bodies were recovered from the sea. The migrant boat disaster, one of the worst in recent months with at least 58 confirmed deaths, highlights the increasing risk migrants face trying to cross the Central Mediterranean from Africa to Europe.
The death toll from a ship packed with African migrants that sank off the Tunisian coast last week has risen to 58 after Tunisia recovered 38 bodies on Thursday, the Tunisian Red Crescent said.
The Tunisian Red Crescent believes that the eventual toll from the incident could be higher than 80. This would make it one of the worst migrant boat disasters to date.
Survivors told the Tunisian coast guard last week that the boat, which capsized after setting off for Europe from neighboring Libya, had been carrying 86 people.
"Only today, the coast guard recovered 38 bodies off the coast of Zarzis, bringing the death toll to 58," Mongi Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent, told Reuters.
Only three survivors
The boat, filled with mostly African migrants, tipped over shortly after setting out from the Libyan town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli. The aim of the migrants was to reach Italy.
Tunisian fishermen rescued four people who were on board the same overcrowded boat but one later died in hospital, UN refugee agency UNHCR said last week.
In May, 65 migrants heading for Europe from Libya drowned when their boat capsized off Tunisia. Libya’s west coast has become a major departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe in recent years.
While the number of migrants attempting to cross from North Africa to Italy fell from 144,000 in 2017 to 46,000 in 2018, the risk of death on the Central Mediterranean route increased last year. According to a recent IOM report, 1 in 35 people attempting to cross perished in 2018, compared with 1 in 50 in 2017.
The total number of migrants who died in the Mediterranean since October 2013 is approaching 20,000.
With material from Reuters and AFP