20 dead after boat sinks off Tunisian coast
CAPE TOWN - At least 20 people have died after a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank off Tunisia's coast, reported news broadcaster Al Jazeera.
Authorities made the grim discovery off the coast of Sfax on Tuesday, reported the Middle East Monitor.
The boat was heading towards Italy carrying 53 people on board when it sank.
A Sfax court spokesperson said that an investigation had been opened following the incident near the Kerkennah Islands off the east coast of Tunisia.
Authorities said a search team including the coast guard and the army was deployed to retrieve the survivors.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia have jumped by 150% in the first four months of the year as compared with the same period in 2019, reported Al Jazeera.
Last month, at least one migrant died and 80 were rescued off the Tunisian coast when their boat capsized during a dangerous attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe.
Thousands of migrants and refugees have attempted to flee the war and conflict in North Africa by escaping to Europe.
Authorities said the Tunisian and Libyan coasts are popular launch points for thousands of migrants and refugees who want to reach Europe to build a better life, despite tight security and the current threat of the coronavirus, wrote the Middle East Monitor.
Tunisian National Guard spokesperson Houssemeddine Jebabli said 140 undocumented migrants were arrested last week.
According to Al Jazeera, the death toll among migrants and refugees who tried to cross the Mediterranean since 2014 has surpassed 20,000.African News Agency