Migrants ship sink, 60 dead and hundreds missing
TUNIS/GENEVA: The death toll from a ship packed with migrants that sank off Tunisia on Sunday has risen to at least 60, the United Nations migration agency said.
The overloaded boat went down near the southern island of Kerkenna. At least 100 people were killed or are missing, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
“Among the 60 victims transferred to the forensic department at Habib Bourguiba hospital in Sfax, 48 are Tunisians … 12 are non-Tunisian, the identifications are in progress,” Lorena Lando, chief of mission of the IOM in Tunisia said in a statement late on Monday.
Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coastguard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
Tunisian authorities, which on Sunday said they had recovered 48 bodies, provided no new figures, but said the coast guard was still searching for dozens of missing migrants.
The IOM said 68 had been rescued – 60 Tunisians, two Moroccans, one Libyan, one Malian, one Cameroonian national and three Ivorians.
The IOM said 1,910 Tunisian migrants reached Italy between Jan. 1 and April 30, including 39 women and 307 minors, 293 of whom were unaccompanied.
Security officials said the boat was packed with about 180 migrants, including 80 from other countries in Africa.
Survivors said the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coastguard.
Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans have often tried to cross in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in southern Italy. The North African country’s economy is in crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 threw Tunisia into turmoil with unemployment and inflation soaring.
On Monday, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Italy will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp”, as he promised tough action to reduce migrant arrivals and send back those who had arrived.