40 Tunisian migrants missing in Mediterranean: Officials

AFP , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

Around 40 Tunisian migrants attempting to reach Italy by sea have been missing for five days, the Tunisian National Guard said on Tuesday.

Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa
Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa sit in a makeshift boat off the coast of Tunisia s city of Sfax. AFP

 

The migrants left from the city of Sfax, in the centre of Tunisia's east coast, overnight last Wednesday to Thursday, the national guard said in a statement.

Relatives who lost contact with them alerted the guard, which then launched a search using significant resources in an attempt to locate the missing people.

Eastern Tunisia, alongside Libya, is the main departure point for thousands of irregular migrants escaping conflicts or dire economic circumstances in search of better lives in Europe.

During the first 11 months of 2023, the number of irregular migrants intercepted by Tunisian authorities reached 69,963, more than double the figure for the same period in 2022, according to statistics shared by the National Guard.

Of that figure, 77.5 percent were foreigners, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, while the remainder were Tunisian.

The number of departures surged in Tunisia following a speech last February by President Kais Saied in which he denounced "hordes of illegal migrants" as a demographic threat to the country.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 2,270 people died attempting to cross the central Mediterranean in 2023, a 60 percent increase on the previous year.

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