Bodies of 10 people recovered after boat sinks off Tunisia coast

The bodies of a further 10 people have been recovered after a boat sank off the coast of Tunisia – bringing the total number of dead to 29 – a security official has said.

Houssem Jebabli, a national guard, said the boat sank off the coast of Mahdia. He gave no further details.

It is the latest in a series of small boat tragedies that have taken place off the country’s coast. In the last four days, five have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 75 missing.

There has been a significant increase in the number of boats heading to Italy, with the coastguard confirming it had stopped around 80 in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 people, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries.

Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The coast near Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe.

The latest disaster comes in the midst of a campaign of arrests by the Tunisian authorities of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans.

More on Tunisia

According to UN data, at least 12,000 migrants who reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia – compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022. Previously, Libya was the main departure point for migrants.

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According to FTDES statistics, Tunisia’s coastguard prevented more than 14,000 migrants setting off in boats during the first three months of this year, compared with 2,900 during the same period last year.

Italy’s prime minister has warned Europe risks seeing a huge wave of migrants arriving on its shores from North Africa if financial stability in the country is not restored.

Giorgia Meloni has called on the IMF and some countries to help Tunisia quickly to avoid its collapse.

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