The Tunisian National Office for Civil Protection (ONPC) on Friday recovered the bodies of 21 immigrants whose boat sank off the coast of Sfax while trying to illegally cross to Italy.
Director of the ONPC in the governorate, Mourad Al-Mishri, told Anadolu Agency that the bodies of the migrants were recovered 2.5 nautical miles from the coast of Sfax.
Al-Mishri added that the authorities recovered bodies of people from Sub-Saharan Africa, including two babies.
He stated: "The migrant boat sank yesterday, while the causes of the sinking and the number of migrants on board are still unknown."
Al-Mishri continued: "Search operations conducted by National Guard units, the Navy and divers from the Civil Protection elements for possible missing persons on board the boat are still underway."
Irregular migration from the coasts of Tunisia towards Europe has increased since 2011, but has recently declined after the authorities tightened security measures on smugglers and trafficking gangs.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) estimated the number of irregular migrants arriving from the Tunisian coast to Italy in 2020 at around 8,000, compared with 800 in 2019.
Unemployment, challenging social conditions and poor development in Tunisia and Sub-Saharan Africa are the main reasons pushing young people to illegally migrate to Europe.