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Over 100 migrants awaiting burial after drowning off Tunisia's coast

April 16, 2024 at 3:15 pm

The Tunisian National Guard rescues irregular migrants off the city of Sfax as they try to make their way to Europe on 12 August 2023. [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

A health official in Tunisia’s coastal region of Sfax has said that the number of drowned migrants has exceeded the capacity of the region’s hospital mortuary, which can take 35 corpses. There are around 100 awaiting burial at the moment, but even the local cemeteries are starting to fill up.

The Sfax coastline is a major departure point for irregular migration boats heading towards the Italian. With the onset of spring, human smuggling gangs and migration boats are more active. There have been many tragic drowning incidents involving migrants, most of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa, including women and children.

The local Tunisian authorities suffer from a lack of logistical capabilities to preserve bodies for longer periods until DNA tests are conducted and graves are provided.

Last week, the authorities launched a “crisis cell” to deal with the rise in illegal migration and drowning tragedies. In 2023, more than 1,300 migrants drowned off the coast of Tunisia, according to data from the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, which is concerned with migration issues.

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