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At least 29 dead after migrant boats headed for Italy sink off coast of Tunisia

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 26/03/2023 Josh Salisbury
GettyImages-1243844054.jpg © AFP via Getty Images GettyImages-1243844054.jpg

At least 29 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Italy from Tunisia, the Tunisian coast guard said on Sunday.

Tunisia is a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa in the hope of a better life in Europe.

The deaths are the latest involving people departing from the north African country, where the authorities have launched a crackdown on undocumented people from sub-Saharan Africa.

Tunisian fishermen recovered 19 bodies, said National Guard spokesman Houssameddine Jebabli.

The Coast Guard also recovered eight bodies on Saturday night and rescued 11 survivors who had been aboard a boat that went down, he said.

Two other bodies were recovered in waters off the Tunisian port of Sfax.

The coast guard said it had stopped about 80 boats heading for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries.

It was not clear how many people were on the boats that sank.

A Tunisian NGO that tracks migration issues said five boats were believed to have foundered in the past two days off the Tunisian port of Sfax and that 67 people remained unaccounted for.

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

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