Refugee boat sinking off Tunisia leaves at least 19 dead

A boat carrying African refugees and migrants has capsized off Tunisia, leaving at least 19 people dead, a rights group said.

In the last four days, five refugee boats have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead, after a significant increase in boats heading towards Italy.

At least 34 African migrants and refugees were missing on Friday after their boat sank off Tunisia, the fifth shipwreck in two days, raising the total number of missing to 67 amid a sharp increase in boats heading towards Italy, Tunisian officials said.

The Italian coast guard said on Thursday it had rescued about 750 refugees and migrants in two separate operations off the southern Italian coastline, hours after at least five people died and 33 were missing in an attempted sea crossing from Tunisia.

According to UN data, at least 12,000 refugees and migrants who have reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022.

Previously, Libya was the main launch pad for refugees from the region.

The coastline of Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East for a shot at a better life in Europe.

Last month, President Kais Saied said in comments widely criticised by rights groups and the African Union that undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration was a conspiracy aimed at changing Tunisia’s demographic make-up.

Security forces started a campaign to expel refugees and migrants living in Tunisia illegally.


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