Boat carrying around 100 migrants capsized off Tunisian port
A migrant boat sank off the Tunisian coast, near the city of Sfax, on Wednesday, resulting in one person dying and over 70 missing.
A boat loaded with migrants heading from Libya to Europe sank off next to Tunisia, resulting in more than 70 people going missing in the Mediterranean, the coastguard said Wednesday.
The boat which carried around 100 people capsized off the Tunisian port of Sfax. The coastguard and navy units were able to pull only 24 people out of the water, according to National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli.
"According to preliminary results of the investigation, an inflatable boat left the coast of Zawara in Libya on Sunday night with around 100 people on board," Jebabli said, adding that so far only one body had been recovered.
They were "of various African and Asian nationalities", he added.
Migrants have taken Libya as a major launch area seeking to arrive in Europe, a migration route that has become the world's deadliest.
What prompted a spike in departures is the improving weather conditions. Since the start of the year, 6,340 migrants have been intercepted and taken back to Libya, as per figures the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published on Monday.
Migrants who had set out for Europe from Libya were rescued by the Tunisian navy 10 days ago.
The navy said that they rescued 81 migrants sailing on a damaged boat that was boarded around six kilometers off Tunisia's northeastern coast.
According to human rights groups, those taken back usually face horrific abuses.
At least 129 people died trying to cross and 459 went missing, the IOM said.
Last year, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) reported on 15,671 migrants who attempted to head to Italy from Tunisia, up from fewer than 13,000 in 2020.
Nearly 2,000 went missing or sank in the Mediterranean in 2021, in comparison with 1,401 the year before, according to the IOM.
17,000+ dead or missing along Central Mediterranean route
The increase in deaths at sea came amid a surge in the number of crossings. A UNHCR report showed that 53,323 migrants arrived by boat in Italy last year - an 83% hike over 2020.
In addition, 23,042 arrived in the Canary Islands, nearly the same number as a year earlier, the report mentioned.
The report also noted a 61% increase in departures from Tunisia compared to 2020, while departures from Libya increased by 150%. They took the Central Mediterranean route, which is the world's deadliest.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 17,000 people have died or gone missing along this route since 2014.