Tunisian coastguards rescue 163 migrants heading to Europe
162 were Tunisians and one was Moroccan; 9 of them were women and 16 were children, all between the ages of 8 and 48.
The Tunisian defense ministry has rescued 163 would-be migrants off the east coast of the country on Sunday.
"As part of a joint operation with the coastguard, a naval unit rescued Saturday 163 illegal migrants," the ministry said.
Of the 163 migrants, 162 were Tunisians and one was Moroccan; 9 of them were women and 16 were children, all between the ages of 8 and 48.
The migrants were rescued 12 kilometers from Sfax, a 'key departure area' for migrants seeking to make their way to Europe, though illegally.
The closest Italian shore to Tunisia is 200 kilometers away - Sicily.
According to the ministry, the migrants set off on Friday through Saturday to secretly cross maritime borders.
Upon their discovery, the migrants were taken to the Sfax fishing port and were handed over to the Tunisian coastguard.
Tunisia not only is dealing with an economic crisis ravaged by the pandemic but has also been dealing with Kais Saied, their current president, who seized all governmental power in July 2021.
According to humanitarian agencies, the Mediterranean sea has become the world's deadliest place for migration.
From January to October in 2021, Italian reports record 55,000 migrants reaching Italy, which is a surge in comparison to the same period the year before, 30,000.
Within the same period of time, 19,500 migrants were caught mid-crossing by Tunisian coastguard, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights. The United Nations' refugee agency said at least 1,300 disappeared or drowned.