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29 African Migrants Tragically Lost at Sea Off Tunisia

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At least 29 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa died when their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, sources said Sunday, in the latest migrant boat disaster off Tunisia.

In the past four days, five migrant boats have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead, after a significant increase in boats heading towards Italy.

Roumdan Benomar, an official with the Forum for Social and Economic Rights, told Reuters that the Tunisian coast guard rescued five people from a boat off the coast of Mahdia after a voyage that set off from the shores of Sfax.

Tunisian authorities could not be reached for comment.

The coast guard said it had stopped some 80 boats bound for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries.

The coast near Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East with 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.

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

According to FTDES statistics, the Tunisian Coast Guard prevented more than 14,000 migrants from setting off on boats during the first three months of this year, compared to 2,900 during the same period last year.

On Thursday, the Italian Coast Guard said it had rescued some 750 migrants in two operations off the southern Italian coast.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, said on Friday that Europe risks seeing a huge wave of migrants reach its shores from North Africa if financial stability is not guaranteed in Tunisia. Meloni called on the International Monetary Fund and some countries to help Tunisia quickly to avoid its collapse.

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