Tunisia: Ten bodies found after migrant boat sinks off coast of Tunis

Tunisia: Ten bodies found after migrant boat sinks off coast of Tunis
The Tunisian Coast Guard recovered the bodies of 10 migrants on Wednesday after their boat sank off the coast of Tunis.
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The National Guard said more than 14,000 migrants were intercepted or rescued in this year itself, five times higher than the figures recorded last year [source: Getty]

Ten migrants from sub-Saharan Africa drowned off Tunisia after their boat sank while trying to reach Europe, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with at least 20 more reported missing.

"Seventy-two migrants were rescued and 10 bodies recovered after Tuesday's shipwreck" off the city of Sfax, said spokesman Houssem Jebabli.

Between 20 and 30 more African migrants were listed as missing, Faouzi Masmoudi, the spokesman of a local court investigating the incident, told AFP.

Jebabli said all those killed hailed from sub-Saharan African countries. The coastguard also said they had foiled another illegal sea crossing from the northern coast.

Tunisia has increasingly been used as a springboard for the often perilous attempts by desperate West Africans, Sudanese and others to reach Europe in hopes of better lives.

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The Italian island of Lampedusa lies about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the Tunisian coast.

Tuesday's shipwreck was the latest tragedy after boats had capsized on Friday and Saturday off the Tunisian coast, claiming the lives of 27 migrants.

In late March the bodies of 29 sub-Saharan African migrants were retrieved from Tunisian waters following three separate shipwrecks.

The number of such voyages has risen after Tunisian President Kais Saied in February ordered officials to take "urgent measures" to tackle irregular immigration.

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Saied charged, without evidence, that a "criminal plot" was underway to change Tunisia's demographic makeup, sparking a wave of evictions and violence against black migrants.

Tunisian police on Tuesday used tear gas to disperse homeless migrants who had been protesting outside the office of the UN refugee agency to demand their return to their home countries.

Tunisia's coastguard said Friday that it had intercepted more than 14,000 migrants on their way to Europe between January and March - five times more than in the first quarter of 2022.