The Tunisian navy on Monday rescued over 100 migrants that had been seeking to get to Italy illegally from Libya onboard a boat experiencing difficulties at sea off the island of Djerba.
The news was given by the Tunisian defense ministry in a statement that noted that a naval unit had sighted a boat that was on the verge of sinking about 40 km off the coast of southern Tunisia.
The survivors – 46 Bangladeshi nationals, 29 Sudanese, 22 Eritreans, and 11 Egyptians, all between the ages of 15 and 38 – said that they had led from the Zwara port Sunday evening. They were transferred to the Zarzis port in southern Tunisia.
Tunisia regularly rescues migrants that depart from neighbouring Libya and that often suffer shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean, one of the deadliest migration routes in the world according to the United Nations.
Another boat that had also left from Zwara was intercepted Thursday by the Tunisian authorities, who rescued two Nigerian women. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that the other 17 passengers onboard were missing and most likely drowned.
Illegal departures of Tunisians and people from sub-Saharan countries from the coast of Tunisia have risen to a level not seen since 2011, while the country is bogged down in political power struggles and economic difficulties aggravated by the pandemic.
On Tuesday in Lisbon, Tunisian government chief Hichem Mechichi reiterated to an EU conference on the issue of migration management that Tunisia is opposed to setting up reception centers in its territory for migrants that are trying to reach Europe and many other third countries.
On Thursday, Italian interior minister Luciana Lamorgese is expected to pay a visit to Tunisia alongside European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson to discuss aid and repatriation.