Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

- Advertisement -

Tunisia says dozens dead as three ships sink in Mediterranean


At least 29 African migrants and asylum seekers were found dead and 11 others rescued on Sunday when three separate boats attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy along the Tunisian coast, according to the Tunisian Coast Guard.

Tunisia has seen numbers of migrants, mostly Africans, flee to Italy in recent months as the North African country grapples with economic crises and the government, led by Tunisian President Kais Saied, cracks down on illegal immigration.

“The situation at the moment is very tragic, especially this week,” said Romdhane Ben Amor, an official at the Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), based in the Tunisian capital. He said the true number of dead and missing was probably higher because “officials are not transparent enough” about the cases of capsizing boats.

Migrants flee Tunisia amid arrests and racist attacks against sub-Saharan Africans

The Tunisian coastguard said in a statement on Sunday that it had recovered eight bodies and rescued 11 other Africans who tried to cross the Mediterranean illegally. In another incident, officials recovered 19 bodies about 38 miles off the Tunisian coast after a fishing boat sank. The Coast Guard said it had recovered two other bodies from a capsized fishing boat near the southern coastal town of Sfax.

Apart from Sunday’s incidents, five boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers en route to Italy sank off the coast of Sfax in recent days, leaving at least nine dead and 67 missing, Reuters said, citing Tunisian officials. Between March 22 and 24, the Tunisian coastguard said it stopped 79 illegal sea crossings and arrested nearly 3,000 migrants, almost all from African countries.

Thousands more have reached Italy. The Italian news agency ANSA reported on Saturday that 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers have arrived at the refugee reception center on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the past 24 hours. The center has an official capacity of less than 400 people, according to ANSA.

The flow of mainly Sub-Saharan and West Africans through North Africa and further by sea to Europe, where they hope to find safety from conflict and poverty, has been going on for years. Libya, Tunisia’s southeastern neighbor, was previously the main starting point. But after a crackdown by the Libyan and European governments, migration patterns began to shift to Tunisia, which is now the main transit point.

These changes in migrant flows have coincided with Tunisia’s own deepening economic crises and growing authoritarian rule under Saied, who has used xenophobic and anti-black rhetoric to justify his consolidation of power since his election in 2019 and the suspension of parliament two years later.

The latest escalation came in late February, when Saied blamed “hordes of irregular migrants” for violence and crime in Tunisia. The Tunisian president also echoed the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, accusing Africans in the country of being part of a conspiratorial conspiracy to make Tunisia “just an African country with no ties to Arab and Muslim nations.” .

Saied made these comments to his national security advisers on Feb. 21. His critics — whom the president also cracks down on — dismissed the president’s remarks as a xenophobic ploy to distract the country from mounting economic and political problems.

In the weeks that followed, rights groups documented an increase in anti-black violence and xenophobic incidents as the Tunisian government accelerated roundups of undocumented African migrants. Racist comments spread online. Africans reported being hit with stones and property destroyed. Landlords and workers kicked Africans out of homes and jobs for fear the government might target them for helping undocumented migrants.

The Tunisian president’s racist remarks have only increased Africans’ desire to leave Tunisia — and the chances for smugglers with unsafe boats to exploit them, Ben Amor said.

According to the latest available figures from the United Nations, on March 19, more than 12,000 of the approximately 20,000 migrants and asylum seekers who reached Italy by sea in 2023 departed from Tunisia – compared to about 1,300 who departed from Tunisia for Italy during the same period in 2022. .

In January this year alone, the number of migrants intercepted off the Tunisian coast — 2,322 people — rose by about 101 percent from the same month in 2022, according to FTDES. The Tunisian NGO said 28 people were dead or missing in January for the Tunisian coast, compared to 65 in all of 2022.

The majority of Africans fleeing Tunisia to Europe come from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, Ben Amor said.

The recent influx of African migrants and asylum seekers has raised the alarm in Italy, whose prime minister warned on Friday that Tunisia’s continued financial instability risked “unleashing an unprecedented wave of migration to Europe,” Reuters reported.

Tunisia held bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund, but negotiations have stalled for months, in part because of US demands that Saied make sweeping reforms in exchange for the financial lifeline.

During the last major wave of migration to Europe, more than 1 million migrants and asylum seekers arrived on the continent in 2015. The majority came from Syria and arrived in Italy and Greece on dangerous and often deadly boats from Turkey.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, millions of Ukrainians sought safety elsewhere in Europe. Since March, about 4 million Ukrainians have received temporary protection to stay in the European Union, as Ukraine is not an EU member.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.