Two ships killed at least 39 migrants

The sinking of two makeshift boats from Tunisia ended at least 39 illegal migrants on Tuesday and saved more than 160 others from various African countries, as NGOs worry about increased departures.

These candidates for deportation had left the night to try to reach Europe illegally. He was sighted by the coast guard of Sfax in eastern Tunisia.

The Tunisian Maritime National Guard rescued 165 migrants and recovered 39 bodies, according to a recent defense ministry report.

National Guard spokesman Housam Eddin Jebabali reported that at least nine women, four children and a man had died, adding that the search was “still continuing to find other survivors and dead bodies.”

The past year has been marked by an increase in this type of departure in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migrant route in the world for candidates for deportation to Europe.

Despite the difficult weather conditions, these boats leave every day.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR), between January 1 and February 21, 3,800 migrants arrived in Italy illegally by sea, including about a thousand via Tunisia and 2,500 through neighboring Libya.

In 2021, “departures from Tunisia continue to increase”, underlining Romden Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

This Tunisian human rights NGO has counted 94 boats since the beginning of this year and arrested 1,736 people before exiting the sea, which is almost double the same period last year.

As is often the case in winter, when the crossing is more dangerous and slightly less expensive, the proportion of foreign migrants is relatively high.

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According to the NGO, in January and February, 54.9% of those arrested came from sub-Saharan Africa.

– “Ubiquitous epidemic” –

According to UNHCR, Tunisians are nonetheless the first nationality to reach Italy illegally, 12,000 of whom became homeless in 2020.

According to FTDES, the proportion of foreigners leaving Tunisia has increased in the last two years. The NGO takes this as evidence that 30% of the 13,000 people arrested in 2020 for irregular immigration were from sub-Saharan Africa between 2011 and 2016, against 8 to 11%.

Most of the castaways came from this part of Africa on Tuesday.

Two migrants from different African countries, not far from Sidi, originating from Sidi Mansoor (East), were reported missing in February and 25 others were rescued by the Tunisian Navy a hundred kilometers northwest of the Italian island of Lampusa .

In January, the same navy intercepted fifty emigrants from the Tunisian coast, including four Tunisians, with others coming from sub-Saharan Africa, also from Sidi Mansoor.

“It seems that this increase is associated with the decline of social status, especially with the epidemic of coronavirus”, Mr. Ben Amore estimates.

Health restrictions have been disastrous for precarious jobs, weakening migrants settled in Tunisia, and the political crisis reduces the likelihood of short-term social reform.

According to the international organization Migration, more than 1,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2020 on this central route.

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