Forty-nine bodies have been recovered off Tunisia after a total of four boats with migrants from sub-Saharan countries sank between Wednesday and Sunday near the coastal city of Sfax, a spokesperson of the local security forces has told German news agency dpa.
The latest shipwreck happened on Friday (July 2), when a boat carrying 127 migrants heading towards Europe capsized near the southeastern Tunisian city of Zarzis, a Tunisian Red Crescent official said on Saturday. Forty-nine migrants presumably died. According to the official, authorities were able to bring 84 Sudanese, Eritrean and Bangladeshi migrants to shore.
At the end of June the Tunisian navy and coast guard rescued almost 350 migrants in two separate operations within three days. "As the weather conditions are stable at the moment, a large number of migrants are attempting the crossing to Italy from Tunisia and Libya," dpa reported.
According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), some 3,000 migrants from Tunisia have reached the Italian coast since the beginning of the year. June alone saw more than 1,100 arrivals, the NGO said.
Many of the migrants taking off to Europe depart from either Libya or Tunisia. The asylum seekers often flee from war, authoritarianism and terrorism from various parts of Africa, with some migrants also leaving their home countries due to poor economic conditions.
The migrants frequently travel on unseaworthy wooden boats and rubber dinghies. Some migrants pay a human smuggler to help them make the dangerous journey.
Thousands of migrants have arrived in Italy by boat this year. According to the latest data from the Italian interior ministry, the number stands at more than 20,300 people, around three as many as at the same point in time during the pandemic year 2020.
Hundreds of others have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean: According to the IOM's Missing Migrants Project, 744 people have died so far this year, almost three times as many as during the same period last year.