Migrants mostly from Tunisia were brought on board an Italian coast guard ship after being rescued southwest of the Italian island of Lampedusa | Photo: Francisco Seco / AP Photo / picture alliance
Migrants mostly from Tunisia were brought on board an Italian coast guard ship after being rescued southwest of the Italian island of Lampedusa | Photo: Francisco Seco / AP Photo / picture alliance

Tunisian coast guards returned more than 250 migrants who were attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, the North African country's National Guard said on Sunday.

More than 250 migrants have been "rescued" by the Tunisian coast guard as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, according to the country's National Guard.

Maritime authorities "were able... to rescue 255 would-be migrants, including 170 people of various African nationalities, with the remainder Tunisians," the National Guard said in a statement on Facebook on Sunday.

17 separate attempted crossings took place at night between Friday evening and Saturday morning from the east coast of Tunisia, according to National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli.

The statement did not indicate whether any vessels had got into difficulty or sunk, but did note that an unspecified sum of cash was seized during the operations.

'Pre-emptive' operation to prevent irregular migration

In a separate statement later on Sunday, the Tunisian navy announced that 22 other would-be migrants, including nine children and three women, had been rescued on Saturday.

They were all Tunisian nationals, according to the statement, adding that they were rescued on a boat 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the island of Kuriat near the eastern coastal city of Monastir.

Migrants from Tunisia gesture as they sail in a wooden boat just before being assisted by crew members of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, sixteen miles west of the Italian island of Pantelleria | Photo: Francisco Seco / AP Photo/ picture alliance
Migrants from Tunisia gesture as they sail in a wooden boat just before being assisted by crew members of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, sixteen miles west of the Italian island of Pantelleria | Photo: Francisco Seco / AP Photo/ picture alliance


The National Guard on Friday had also carried out what it called a "pre-emptive operation", arresting five people who were "preparing to lead an illegal immigration bid departing from the coast of Sousse province in the east of the country", spokesman Jebabli said.

More groups of migrants, who reportedly had set off from Tunisia, were pictured being assisted by the Italian coast guard and the Spanish private rescue organization Open Arms at the weekend.

Increased crossings from Tunisia

The Tunisian coast guard announced in mid-July that 455 migrants had been "rescued" in several operations off the northern, eastern and southern coasts of the country.

In May of this year, the coast guard rescued 248 people in several separate operations, and retrieved the bodies of three migrants who had died on a boat which sank off the Tunisian coast.

Migrants, mostly from Tunisia, put on life jackets in a wooden boat as they are assisted by Spanish NGO Open Arms crew members during a rescue operation south of the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean sea, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022 | Photo: Francisco Seco /AP Photo/ picture alliance
Migrants, mostly from Tunisia, put on life jackets in a wooden boat as they are assisted by Spanish NGO Open Arms crew members during a rescue operation south of the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean sea, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022 | Photo: Francisco Seco /AP Photo/ picture alliance


Over 15,000 migrants tried to reach the EU from Tunisia in 2021, an increase from fewer than 13,000 attempted crossings the previous year, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

New shelter for Tunisian migrants opens on Sicilian island

A new shelter for migrants who arrive autonomously from Tunisia, recently opened on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria. The facility, which comprises housing modules donated by EUAA (the European Agency for Asylum), will also be coordinating the transfer of migrants to other parts of Italy.

From file: Migrants hosted in the Barone precinct on the island of Pantelleria |  Photo: Lannino-Gabriele /ANSA
From file: Migrants hosted in the Barone precinct on the island of Pantelleria | Photo: Lannino-Gabriele /ANSA


Last week, and over the weekend, dozens of overcrowded migrant boats arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, whose proximity to Tunisia has made it a landing point for thousands of migrants who cross the central Mediterranean each year.

Attempts by migrants to reach Europe from the North African coastline tend to increase in spring and summer, due to the lower risk of stormy seas.

Tunisia and Libya are principal departure points for migrants attempting to reach Italy.

Also read: Mediterranean: Rescued migrants brought to Italy

With AFP

 

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