Migrants who lost their lives in a previous boatwreck are buried in Sfax, Tunisia on June 11, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance
Migrants who lost their lives in a previous boatwreck are buried in Sfax, Tunisia on June 11, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance

Authorities in Tunisia have now confirmed that at least 17 people died in the shipwreck that took place on Sunday, October 11 off the coast of Tunisia. One judge said the death toll would likely be 21 as it is improbable that any more survivors are found.

At least 17 migrants have been confirmed dead after a ship, thought to be carrying around 30 people, capsized off the coast of Tunisia on Sunday, October 11.

According to the news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) a judge at a court in Tunisia said that the final death toll would likely be 21, since it was difficult to imagine anyone having survived at sea for almost a week.

Seven people did survive the accident and were rescued on Sunday. Since then, a total of 17 bodies have also been retrieved from the waves. Among those drowned, reported AFP, were three children, a baby "less than six months old, as well as seven women aged between 20 and 30 and two Tunisian men."

'Most of the passengers knew each other'

The court spokesperson for a court in Sfax, the port city in Tunisia near where the bodies were recovered, told AFP, that "most of the passengers knew each other, some had been working in Tunisia for several months."

The nationality of those on board has not been declared, but the UN Migration agency IOM said that many Ivorians had been trying to leave Tunisia this summer after their attempts to find work in the north African country had failed.

Tunisian nationals also form the majority of those who arrive in Sicily and on Lampedusa, accounting for about 44% of all arrivals this year.

Intercepted or sent back

According to AFP, "more than 8,500 people have been intercepted trying to reach Europe by sea from Tunisia" between January and mid-September. The interior ministry in Tunisia added that 2,014 of those were non-Tunisians.

As Tunisia struggles more and more economically, migrants from other parts of Africa and Tunisians are all hoping that a life in Europe would lead to better job prospects. According to UNHCR data though, Tunisians have a very low to zero chance of obtaining asylum in Italy, even if they do make it across the water. Most of them are sent back by the Italian government.

ARCI, Italy's largest non-profit association not linked to the Catholic Church, spoke out recently about their concerns about immediate deportations. Everyone has the right to seek asylum, the organization said, no matter which land they come from.

They were responding to reports that large groups of Tunisians, after arrival, were being placed on quarantine ships and then sent home as soon as they tested negative for COVID-19.

When the shipwreck was first reported, IOM Tunisia tweeted that they were "deeply saddened at emerging reports of the death of 13 migrants. It expresses solidarity with the families whose loved ones are missing and reiterates the call for joint efforts so that similar tragedies do not occur in future."

With AFP


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