More Than 50 Migrants Reported Drowned off Tunisia; 33 Saved

This photo provided by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Tunisia shows migrants disembarking in Tunisia, late Monday, May 17, 2021. Tunisian authorities say more than 50 migrants have drowned off the coast of the North African country, while 33 others were rescued by workers from an oil platform. (IOM Tunisia via AP)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — More than 50 migrants have drowned or disappeared off the coast of Tunisia, while 33 others were rescued by workers from an oil platform, the Tunisian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Zekri said that the boat carrying migrants capsized Monday off Sfax, on Tunisia’s southeast coast. He said that personal on the oil platform who saw the boat going under alerted authorities, and navy units were sent in to search the water for missing passengers.

Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the Mediterranean coordination office of the International Organization for Migration, said on Twitter that the 33 survivors were all from Bangladesh. The boat departed from Zawara, Libya, on Sunday, he said.

The nationalities of the people who died were not immediately clear.

An International Organization for Migration spokesperson in Tunisia, Riadh Kadhi, said the survivors reported that the boat carried about 90 passengers when it left Libya.

Libya is a frequent departure point for Europe-bound migrants making the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing.

Monday’s incident was at least the fifth deadly boat sinking in the last couple of months off Tunisia involving migrants escaping conflict or poor living conditions. Earlier this month, 17 migrants drowned and two were rescued after their boat sank off the Tunisian coast.

Tunisia’s official TAP news agency reported that navy units rescued another 113 migrants from Bangladesh, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa on Monday afternoon as their boat was about to sink off Djerba, an island off the Tunisian coast.

Safa Msehli, an IOM spokesperson in Geneva, tweeted that teams from the U.N. migration agency were providing humanitarian assistance and shelter.



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