Around 40 migrants missing after boat capsizes in Italy's Lampedusa
The survivors, all from sub-Saharan Africa, tell the IOM that they left the Tunisian port of Sfax with 46 people on board a boat that capsized due to strong winds.
Citing an account of four survivors, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed on Friday that around 40 migrants are missing after their boat capsized between Tunisia and the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The survivors, all from sub-Saharan Africa, arrived in Lampedusa on Thursday, telling the IOM that they left the Tunisian port of Sfax with 46 people on board a boat that capsized due to strong winds.
UNHCR representative to Italy Chiara Cardoletti announced that one newborn baby was among the missing. The survivors recounted that the missing migrants include seven women as well, according to an IOM spokesman in Italy to Reuters.
A surge in migration across the Mediterranean from Tunisia has been seen this year.
A judicial official said on Thursday that at least 12 African migrants were missing and three were found dead after three boats sank off Tunisia, and the country's coastguard rescued 152 others.
The Italian island of Lampedusa, 150 kilometers off the Tunisian coast, is described as the most deadly in the world by the United Nations.
Rome applied pressure on Tunisian authorities to try to control the flow of people and helped beef up the coastguard, which was described as violence by rights groups. Italy's hard-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warned that Tunisia's "serious financial problems" risked sparking a "migratory wave" toward Europe.
Tunisia has been facing a series of socio-economic crises amid spiraling inflation and high levels of unemployment. It is noteworthy that Tunisians themselves make up a large portion of the migrants who are traveling to Italian shores.
Earlier this month, the European Union announced that it is contemplating providing more than one billion euros in aid to Tunisia in order to bolster the country's economy and limit the flow of migrants through the Mediterranean Sea.
The North African country, which is heavily in debt and in discussions with the IMF for a rescue loan, serves as a transit point for migrants and asylum seekers making risky journeys to Europe.