Coast off Tunisia: 34 people missing after boat accident

As of: 03/24/2023 9:56 p.m

34 migrants are missing after a boat accident off the coast of Tunisia – only four people have been rescued so far. It was the fifth shipwreck in two days. The country itself is in a deep crisis.

After a boat accident off the coast of Tunisia, 34 refugees are missing. Four of the 38 people on board could have been saved, said a court spokesman in the Tunisian port of Sfax. Accordingly, the boat started on Thursday off the coast of the Sfax region in the direction of Italy and sank off the Tunisian coast today. All people should come from countries south of the Sahara.

It was the fifth shipwreck in two days, bringing the total number of missing to 67, according to Tunisian sources. Most recently, many people from sub-Saharan countries tried to leave Tunisia.

750 migrants rescued off Italy’s coast

The Italian Coast Guard said Thursday it had rescued around 750 migrants off the southern Italian coast in two separate operations. Hours earlier, at least five people had died and 33 were missing in an attempted crossing from Tunisia.

A National Guard official said the Coast Guard stopped 56 boats en route to Italy in two days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 12,000 migrants have entered Italy from Tunisia this year, according to the United Nations, compared to 1,300 in the same period in 2022.

Tunisia is in an economic crisis

In a speech last month, Tunisian President Kais Saied called for action to be taken against illegal immigration from sub-Saharan countries. The speech was met with international outrage.

In some places, Tunisia is less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa – one of the main port of call for people from Tunisia and other African countries who want to go to Europe.

The country is in a deep economic crisis. It is heavily in debt and is negotiating a rescue loan of two billion euros with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Situation is “very, very dangerous”

France and Italy called for support for the country. French President Emmanuel Macron called for action to be taken “together” at European level to help Tunisia and allow “emigration control”. Macron emphasized that “it must be possible in the very short term to stop the flow of migrants from Tunisia”. He spoke about it with the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“Perhaps not everyone is aware of the risks we face regarding the situation in Tunisia and the need to support stability in a country that is facing serious financial problems,” Meloni said. “If we don’t adequately address these issues, there is a risk that there will be an objectively unprecedented wave of migration.” Meloni also confirmed plans for a mission to Tunisia that would also include the foreign ministers of Italy and France.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the situation in Tunisia was “very, very dangerous”. “If the country collapses economically or socially, new flows of migrants will come to Europe. We must avoid this situation.”

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