The bodies of 25 people were washed up on the coast of Tunisia over the weekend. According to the UN Migration Agency IOM, the migrants had probably been in a boat carrying about 60 migrants.
IOM Tunisia wrote on March 21 that 25 people found dead on a beach in Tunisia at the weekend were still being identified. But the agency added on Facebook that the bodies, discovered near Nabeul in the country's northeast, may have been those of Tunisian and Syrian migrants.
There are fears that the other 35 thought to have been on the boat may also have drowned, reported the news agency Reuters. The Tunisian coastguard recovered 12 bodies on Friday and eight on Saturday (March 18-19).
Nabeul is not far from the Tunisian capital, Tunis. The IOM said it was sad to hear of this latest tragedy, adding that the number of deadly incidents of those leaving Tunisian shores for Italy and Malta had been rising.
'Growing number' of fatal accidents
A "growing number of people lost their lives in accidents during the winter period this year," stated IOM Tunisia.
On Sunday, March 20, the organization Alarm Phone, which monitors migrant boats in the Mediterranean and alerts the authorities to boats in distress, posted several alerts concerning the missing migrants on two separate boats which appeared to have gone missing.
Under the hashtag "#StopTheDying!" Alarm Phone said that it had been receiving calls from relatives of those believed to have been lost at sea. "Our condolences go to their relatives and those they loved," tweeted Alarm Phone in Italian.
'Where are they?'
Alarm Phone had earlier posted on Twitter: "Where are they?", saying that it had been alerted to two boats that left Tunisia in the past eight days. One of these boats was thought to have 60 people on board, the other 24.
According to Alarm Phone, authorities refused to provide information as to the whereabouts of these boats or whether they had arrived anywhere. Alarm Phone said it was "worried that the boats had become shipwrecked." At the time they called on authorities around the Mediterranean to "conduct a search and rescue operation."
So far this year, according to Italian government figures published on March 18, 6,379 migrants have reached the Italian coast this year, compared to 6,067 in the same period last year. In 2020, that number stood at just 2,738.
870 of those declared themselves to be Tunisian nationality when they arrive in Italy, however, many other nationalities also now use Tunisia as a transit land, setting off from Tunisian beaches in the hope of arriving in Italy or Malta. Last week, the Italian government raised the alarm about the numbers of unaccompanied minors setting off from Tunisia and arriving in Italy.
According to the IOM's Missing Migrants Project, 193 people have gone missing or been found dead on the central Mediterranean route this year. The IOM and other organizations believe the real numbers are much higher, since many of those who set off do not tell people they are embarking on the journey. 1,553 people were recorded dead on that route across the whole of 2021.