Two migrant boats sank off the coast of Tunisia. 29 people died. Migrants from various sub-Saharan African countries tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing the Tunisian coast guard.
Reuters also reports that five migrant boats have sunk off the coast of the Tunisian town of Safakis in the last four days. Nine people were killed and 67 are missing. All the boats were headed for Italy.
Tunisia has taken over from Libya the role of the main point from which migrants fleeing poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East try to reach Europe in the hope of a better life. In the last four days, the Tunisian coast guard has stopped about 80 boats bound for Italy and detained more than 3,000 migrants from different countries, the agency wrote.
Many of them are now trying to leave Tunisia after the country’s president Kais Saied against illegal migration, notes the AFP agency.
In February, President Saied ordered “urgent measures” to curb migration, claiming that the illegal presence of sub-Saharan African migrants in Tunisia was a source of “violence and crime” and part of a “criminal enterprise” aimed at “changing the demographic structure” of the country .
EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson in March described Saied’s earlier comments about migrants as “disturbing”, but added that the EU would continue to work with this “key country” to prevent illegal migration to Europe.
Later, after the outrage caused by the president’s statements and complaints from migrants that they caused an increase in attacks against them, Saied explained that he had been misunderstood and called sub-Saharan African migrants “brothers” of the Tunisians.
Migration from Tunisia to Italy is increasing
According to official data, over 21,000 people from Sub-Saharan African countries live in Tunisia, which has a population of 11 million, and most of them stay in this country unregulated. According to Italian statistics, in 2022 over 32,000 migrants, including 18,000 Tunisians, arrived in Italy illegally from Tunisia.
At least 12,000 migrants arriving in Italy this year have left Tunisia, according to UN data. A year ago, in the same period, there were 1,300 of them. In the near future, Europe must reckon with a huge wave of migrants arriving to its shores from North Africa, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Friday. She called on the International Monetary Fund and several of the richest countries to provide immediate assistance to Tunisia in order to prevent the collapse of this country.
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