At least 20 African migrants died when a boat carrying more than 50 people sank off Tunisia, an official said on Tuesday, according to a report by Reuters.
The bodies were found off the coast of Sfax on Tuesday, the official said. A total of 53 people had set out on the boat at the weekend aiming to reach Italy.
Coast Guard units and the army were searching for the other missing people.
Last year, 86 African migrants drowned after their boat capsized having set off for Europe from Libya, in one of the worst such accidents in Tunisia.
Following the 2011 uprising that toppled long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the western coast of Libya has been used as the main departure point for thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing their countries from wars and poverty and heading to Europe.
Although the fighting in Libya has made the situation more difficult for people-smugglers, international aid officials have warned it could also prompt more Libyans to flee their country.
Libyans who are picked up by the Libyan Coast Guard are routinely brought back to Libya and detained. The United Nations has pleaded with Libya's government to free the detainees, some of whom have been locked up for years.
Despite the threat of the coronavirus and tight security measures, irregular migration attempts towards the Italian coasts from Tunisia have recently been on the rise.
According to official figures, more than 22,000 young Tunisians migrated irregularly to Italy in 2011.