Dozens of migrants missing after boat sinks off Tunisian coast

Over 80 African migrants are missing and feared dead after their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast on 4 July, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Four migrants were rescued by Tunisian fisherman after clinging for two days to debris from the shipwrecked boat. The rescued migrants were transferred to a migrant sheltering centre but one of the four later died from hypothermia in a local hospital.

“We, four people, sat on the wood,” one of the rescued migrants told Reuters. “The waves are hitting us. We had two days of that – sitting on that piece of wood. There were a lot of dead people.” 

Survivors told the Tunisian coastguard that their dinghy was carrying 86 people including four women and two children.

Saddened by the latest tragedy, Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean, said in a statement, “The status quo cannot continue. Nobody puts their lives and the lives of their families at risk on these desperate boat journeys unless they feel they have no other choice. We need to provide people with meaningful alternatives that stop them from needing to step foot on a boat in the first place.”

The incident came a day after an airstrike on a Libyan migrant detention centre killed at least 60 migrants. 

The ongoing conflict in Libya is pushing thousands of migrants detained in the country to look for a safe way out of Libya. Many migrants are attempting to flee from the west coast of Libya bordering Tunisia. In June, at least 65 migrants drowned when their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast after they had left Libya hoping to reach Europe.

The Mediterranean is still the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”, according to a new report from the IOM. From January to June 2019, latest IOM data showed that at least 597 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. 

TMP – 10/07/2019

Photo credit: Anadolu Agency website/ File photo

Photo caption: Tunisian coast guard on watch