At least 17 Bengali migrants have drowned in a shipwreck off the Tunisian coast as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy from Libya. Some reports say that the number of deaths may yet rise.
More than 380 people meanwhile were rescued by the Tunisian coast guard, the Tunisian Red Crescent said Wednesday, July 21. The boat was carrying migrants from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Mali and Bangladesh, the humanitarian organization added.
"17 Bengali died and more than 380 other migrants rescued in a boat that set off from Libya's Zuwara towards Europe," Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said.
Meanwhile in a separate report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that as many as 500 migrants and refugees had been intercepted by Libya’s coast guard in the past 24 hours, where they are being held in detention centers.
The IOM says that since the beginning of the year, roughly 6,000 people have ended up in Libyan detention centers -- which are notorious for their poor sanitary conditions and exploitative actions -- after being returned by the coast guard. Other organizations believe that number to be closer to 15,000.
According to human rights group Amnesty International, migrants in these detention camps are subjects to hunger, torture, rape and murder.
Sea crossings continue despite significant dangers
The number of people drowning off the Tunisian coast has increased in recent months, with the frequency of attempted crossings to Europe from Tunisia and Libya picking up during the most clement summer months. Most people die because the boats they travel on are not seaworthy.
Hundreds of thousands of people have attempted to make the perilous sea crossing in recent years, with many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
With Reuters, dpa