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

The Tunisian coast guard rescued 248 migrants in several separate incidents on Wednesday. They also retrieved three bodies from a boat which sank off the Tunisian coast.

The bodies of three sub-Saharan African migrants were recovered from a boat which sank off the coast of El Awabed in the Sfax region of Tunisia, confirmed a spokesperson for the Libyan coast guard.

The news agency Reuters reported that Lieutenant-Colonel Ali Ayari added that the Tunisian coastguard "rescued 240 African migrants and eight Tunisians in 10 illegal migration trips," on Wednesday, May 11.

The news agency Anadolu (AA) reported that a source inside the National Guard, affiliated to the Ministry of the Interior, said that the migrants had been traveling on a fishing boat which had "many migrants" on board, although the exact figures were not declared.

Six meters deep

The boat got into trouble, said the anonymous source, just off the Sfax coast, where the waters were about six meters deep. The source said that divers from the National Guard and the Navy had helped with the operation and the search for anyone thought to be missing.

In 2021, reported AA, the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior said that they had stopped 20,616 migrants from crossing towards Europe. About 10,371 were non-Tunisians, the majority of whom came originally from sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier in May, the Tunisian authorities reported that the bodies of 24 people were also washed up in the region around Sfax. It is thought they had been on board boats which left Tunisia between April 22 and 30.

Previous incident

A spokesperson for the Tunisian judiciary, Mourad Turki, told the news agency AFP on May 4 that it was likely the 24 had drowned after their boat went down. 97 others were rescued from the boat as it was sinking.

Women and children were among those found dead in the incident in early May, Tunisian authorities said. Turki added that at the beginning of May the morgue in Sfax was already struggling to cope, as in the last few months it had already taken in the bodies of 92 sub-Saharan Africans who died at sea.

The morgue is full

About 40 of them had been placed on the floor of the morgue as it was so full, said Turki. The morgue has become full because there are no more places to bury these people in the cemetery in Sfax, said Turki.

Many local Tunisian authorities try to avoid having to take responsibility for the bodies of migrants, reported AFP.

According to the latest figures from the UN Migration Agency's Missing Migrants Project, more than 2,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe in 2021 on all routes. This year, the number in the whole of the Mediterranean already stands at 646 deaths.

With AFP, Reuters, Anadolu Agency


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