Tunisian coast guard boat in the Mediterranean Sea off Isle of Djerba | Photo: Natalia Seliverstova/dpa/picture-alliance
Tunisian coast guard boat in the Mediterranean Sea off Isle of Djerba | Photo: Natalia Seliverstova/dpa/picture-alliance

Tunisian authorities rescued 267 migrants in Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The migrants had tried to reach Europe from neighbouring Libya.

The Tunisian coastguard said the migrants were stranded at sea for a while after their boat had broken down.

The migrants were brought to shore at the Ben Guerdane port in southern Tunisia, near the border with Libya, where they were handed over to the IOM and the Red Crescent.

It was not immediately clear if all migrants aboard the boat were rescued or if any passengers had drowned.

According to Munji Salim, head of the Red Crescent in Tunisia’s southern province of Medenine, the operation involved the highest number of migrants rescued off the Tunisian coast in a single operation. He added that the migrants, of whom 264 were Bangladeshi and three from Egypt, were thought to have set off from the Libyan city of Zuwara.

Read more: Over 260 migrants rescued off Tunisia

Tunisia picking up migrants departing from Libya

The migrants were placed in quarantine at a hotel on the Tunisian island of Djerba, the IOM said.

According to the UN agency, more than 1,000 migrants who set off from Libya ended up in Tunisia since January, with the number of departures rising during the summer months.

There are fears that the migrants might eventually be returned to Libya, which has repeatedly made headlines for the dire living conditions and systemic abuse of migrants.

There were over 11,000 departures from Libya between January to April 2021. That's over 70% more than in the same period last year, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR. At least 760 people died trying to make the crossing from Libya to Europe so far this year.

Read more: Fact check: Is sea rescue a pull factor for refugees?

with dpa, AFP

 

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