A boat carrying migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe sank off the coast of Tunisia, killing at least 25 persons.
The Tunisian coastguard reported the discovery of fifteen corpses on Thursday, following the recovery of ten bodies on Wednesday following the shipwreck off the coast of Sfax the day before.
In addition to the boat’s Tunisian captain, six women were discovered deceased on Thursday.
Faouzi Masmoudi, a spokesperson for the court of Sfax, which is conducting an investigation into the fatalities, stated that fifteen bodies were entombed beneath the boat.
A national guard spokesperson announced on Thursday that 41 Tunisians, including five women and nine children, were rescued off the coast of Sousse.
In recent weeks, dozens of desperate migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have perished off the coast of Tunisia while attempting to reach Europe. The nation, whose coastline is less than 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a popular starting point for those attempting the voyage.
After the Tunisian president, Kais Saied, gave an incendiary speech in February accusing “hordes” of illegal immigrants of causing a crime surge and being part of a “plot” to alter Tunisia’s demographic composition, departures from sub-Saharan Africa increased. The remarks triggered a surge of evictions and acts of violence against black migrants.
Thursday, Volker Türk, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, expressed distress over the “precarious” condition of asylum seekers and migrants attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest migration route. “We are witnessing a sharp rise in the number of desperate individuals who put their lives in grave danger,” he said. “We cannot afford to procrastinate and become entangled in yet another debate over who is culpable. There are lives at stake.”
The Tunisian coastguard reported last week that it had intercepted more than 14,000 migrants attempting to reach Europe between January and March, which is more than five times the number of migrants who attempted the journey in the first quarter of 2022. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, more than 14,000 people have disembarked in Italy since the beginning of the year, compared to slightly more than 5,300 during the same period in 2017.
Italy’s right-wing government declared a state of emergency on immigration on Tuesday in response to the sharp increase in arrivals from across the Mediterranean, a move that will enable the country to return people more quickly.