In yet another migrant boat disaster, at least one person died and another ten went missing after a boat crossing the Mediterranean to Italy sank off Tunisia, according to a judicial official said Sunday.
Tunisia’s coastguard rescued 11 people from the boat, which set off from the coast off the town of Zarzis, Faouzi Masmoudi, a judge in the city of Sfax, told Reuters.
Tunisia has replaced Libya becoming a major point of departure for the migrants entering Europe as the country is witnessing an unprecedented migration crisis as people forced to flee their home country due to poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.
Data compiled by Reuters indicate that the latest tragedy raises the number of dead and missing off the North African country’s coasts to more than 600 in the first half of 2023, far more than in any previous year.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, a human rights group, said on Saturday that the number of dead and missing in boat sinking incidents has reached 608 and the coastguard had foiled attempts to board boats by about 33,000 people from Tunisia’s coasts.
Tunisia is under pressure from European countries to stop large numbers of people departing from its coasts. But President Kais Saied has said it will not act as a border guard.
The incident comes weeks after a migrant dinghy carrying 59 people was on its way to Spain’s Canary Islands sank in the sea.
Helena Maleno, head of Spain’s Walking Borders migrants charity wrote on Twitter that 39 people had drowned.
Alarm Phone, which focuses on supporting rescue operations in trans-Europe said on Twitter that 35 people were missing.
Earlier, Alarm Phone reported the boat was taking on water and three passengers were dead, adding that “we demand immediate rescue, do not let them down!”
According to Reuters, the Spanish maritime rescue service said that a child had died and 24 people were rescued from the sinking dinghy in a Moroccan-led rescue operation carried out some 88 miles to the southeast of Gran Canaria island.
The body of one child was recovered by the Spanish maritime rescue service and sent by helicopter to Gran Canaria, a Spanish coastguard source had said.
The coastguard later tweeted that a second body had been found by a merchant ship, the Navios Azure, without giving more details.
“The dinghy had been begging for rescue in Spanish waters for more than twelve hours. Among the survivors, 24 people, 22 men, 2 women, are being transferred to Cap Boujdour,” Maleno of Walking Borders wrote on Twitter.