Ten dead migrants wash ashore in Tunisia
AFP | Tunis
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
The bodies of 10 migrants have been found on a beach in Tunisia, near the city of Sfax which has seen a spike this year in Europe-bound sea crossings, authorities said Sunday.
Tunisia has become a major gateway for irregular migrants and asylum seekers primarily from other parts of Africa, attempting perilous voyages in often rickety boats in the hopes of a better life.
"Ten bodies have been found over the past 48 hours by coast guard units" north of Sfax in Tunisia's centre-east, the national guard said in a statement.
Sfax court spokesman Faouzi Masmoudi told AFP it had been informed of the discovery of "eight bodies, all apparently sub-Saharan Africans" and investigators were working to identify them.
The dead migrants were "found between Friday and Saturday" during a windstorm that had possibly sunken their boat, Masmoudi said, but noted no reported shipwrecks off Sfax.
They may have embarked from another area along Tunisia's coast, the spokesman added.
According to the North African country's interior ministry, 901 bodies had been recovered this year by July 20 following maritime accidents in the Mediterranean Sea, and 34,290 others had been rescued or intercepted.
Most of them came from sub-Saharan African countries, it said.
The distance between Sfax and Italy's Lampedusa island is only about 130 kilometres (80 miles).
Nearly 90,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, according to UN figures. Most of them embarked from Tunisia or neighbouring Libya, said the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
The central Mediterranean migrant crossing from North Africa to Europe is the world's deadliest with more than 20,000 fatalities since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Crossing attempts have multiplied in March and April following a incendiary speech by President Kais Saied who had alleged that "hordes" of sub-Saharan migrants were causing crime and posing a demographic threat to the mainly Arab country.
Xenophobic attacks targeting black African migrants and students have increased across the country since Saied's February remarks, and many migrants have lost jobs and housing.
Since early July, hundreds of migrants have been driven out of Sfax after a Tunisian's death in an altercation with migrants.
At least 1,200 migrants, according to Human Rights Watch, have been taken by Tunisian police during the following days to the desert or perilous areas near the Libyan and Algerian borders.
Humanitarian officials have reported at least 25 deaths of migrants abandoned in the Tunisian-Libyan border area since last month.