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Boat capsizes between Tunisia and Italy, newborn among missing

June 26, 2023 at 12:44 pm

440 migrants rescued from overcrowded boat off Malta on 4 April, 2023 [@MSF_Sea/Twitter]

A boat has capsized between Tunisia and Italy and 37 people including a newborn baby are missing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The survivors are from sub-Saharan Africa and arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa last Thursday.

The boat they were on left from Tunisia’s second city of Sfax carrying refugees from Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

A spokesperson for the IOM said that the arrival of sub-Saharan Africans from Tunisia was because of discrimination that they faced in Tunisia.

In February, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced that immigration was a plot to change the country’s demography and that security forces should take “urgent measures” against “hordes” of undocumented sub-Saharan migrants.

Armed mobs attacked homes where black people live, stole their possessions and kicked them out of their homes and jobs.

READ: Tunisians protest against irregular migrants

In March a refugee from Darfur living in Tunisia told MEMO that he and many others were planning to leave via the Mediterranean Sea after Saied’s speech made them feel unsafe.

Saied suspended the parliament in 2021 and dismissed the government in a power grab and set about targeting the opposition, chipping away at the judiciary’s independence, and clamping down on freedom of expression.

Many refugees crossing the Mediterranean enter Europe through the southern island of Lampedusa – 46,000 of the total 105,000 in 2022.

The tragedy happened one day after 39 people were feared dead after a ship sank between Morocco and the Canary Islands.

The week before, a fishing trawler carrying 750 people capsized off the coast of Greece. There are 104 survivors and 82 bodies have been recovered.

Greece is facing intense scrutiny over the disaster with reports indicating that the vessel was stationary for some six hours before it sank.

The stretch of the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Italy is one of the main migratory routes to Europe.

READ: Tunisia public prosecutor refuses to release opposition figure Chaima Issa