The Tunisian coast guard said Wednesday that 10 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who were trying to reach Europe illegally died after their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Tunisia.
"Seventy-two migrants were rescued and ten bodies were recovered after the sinking of the boat on Tuesday" off Sfax in east-central Tunisia, National Guard spokesman Houssem Jebabli told AFP, saying the dead were nationals of sub-Saharan African countries.
In a statement, the National Guard said Tuesday to have foiled "two operations of illegal crossing of maritime borders", that off Sfax and a second in the north of the country.
In total, 76 migrants including only four Tunisians were rescued
In addition to the ten dead, "between 20 and 30" other African migrants are missing after the shipwreck off the coast of Sfax, told AFP the spokesman for the local court investigating this drama, Faouzi Masmoudi,
Twenty-seven migrants from sub-Saharan Africa had died or are missing after two other shipwrecks Friday and Saturday off Tunisia.
At the end of March, the bodies of 29 other migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were recovered after three separate shipwrecks off the coast of Tunisia.
Tunisia, whose coastline is less than 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, regularly records attempts by migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, to leave for Italy.
The departures intensified after a violent speech on February 21 by Tunisian President Kais Saied, who denounced illegal immigration.
Saied said the presence in Tunisia of "hordes" of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa was a source of "violence and crime" and a "criminal enterprise" aimed at "changing the demographic composition" of the country.
After this speech, a significant portion of the 21,000 sub-Saharan Africans officially registered in Tunisia, most of whom were in an irregular situation, lost their jobs, usually informal, and their housing overnight as a result of the campaign against illegal immigrants. Most African migrants arrive in Tunisia and then attempt to immigrate illegally by sea to Europe.
On Friday, the National Guard announced that it had rescued or intercepted "14,406 people, 13,138 of whom were from sub-Saharan Africa, the rest being Tunisians," in the first three months of the year, more than five times the number recorded for the same period in 2022.