At least 13 Sudanese migrants died and 27 others are believed missing after their small metal boat sank Thursday off the Tunisian coast as they sought to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, according to local authorities.
The Tunisian coast guard was able to rescue just two people from the capsized boat 14 kilometers (nine miles) off the coast of the port of Chebba, and is searching for those missing, regional court spokesperson Farid Ben Jha said. The survivors said a total of 42 people were aboard, all from Sudan.
They said the group had left from the coast of nearby Sfax, a common jumping-off point for illegal boat journeys across the Mediterranean to Italy. The boat sank soon after setting to sea, Ben Jha said.
Such migration attempts have increased recently from Tunisia, by both Tunisians and people from elsewhere in Africa.
Migration activists sounded the alarm last month about mass expulsions and arbitrary arrests of migrants in Tunisia, where authorities are seeing more migrants arrive for attempted Mediterranean crossings from the North African nation to Europe.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights cited witness accounts indicating the situation had become particularly dire around Tunisia's borders with Libya and Algeria as well as around Sfax, the country's second most populous city, 117 miles (188 kilometers) from the Italian Island of Lampedusa,