Tunisia: 15 sub-Saharan migrant bodies found on Sfax coast

Coast guard of Tunisia stated on Thursday that it had recovered 13 bodies of migrant victims from a shipwreck off the port city of Sfax, the site of last week’s clash between migrants and local people.

“Last night, units associated with the Sfax maritime area (central east) thwarted an illegal border crossing attempt and rescued 25 sub-Saharan migrants but 13 bodies were found.” the National Guard announced.

Sfax, the second largest city in Tunisia, this year the main departure point for migration candidates to Europe, the Italian island of Lampedusa lies less than 150 kilometers off the coast of Tunisia.

Last week, this gathering of one million residents was the site of clashes that claimed the life of a Tunisian on July 3.
Hundreds of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were subsequently expelled from the city and sent by Tunisian authorities, according to NGOs, to harsh areas on the border with Libya in the east and Algeria in the west.

According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, at least 100 to 150 migrants were still stranded on Thursday night near the Libyan border, towards Ras Jedir, in a militarized area, with no water, no shelter or food.

On Wednesday, they made an emergency call in a video passed to AFP, saying they had children and pregnant women among them.

According to HRW, another group of 200 migrants from sub-Saharan African countries had to fend for themselves  near the Algerian border in Tamaghza, 600 kilometers south of the capital Tunis. Rescue teams are on their way to rescue them.

Witnesses told AFP that various convoys would disperse dozens of migrants in an area near the border with Algeria, which is 1,000 kilometers long.

630 migrants were hosted by Tunisian Red Crescent from Sunday to Monday, some of whom spent a week in the Ras Jedir buffer zone on the Libyan border.

According to the latest figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in June, 51,215 illegal migrants have arrived in Italy by sea this year, up 150% from the previous year.

Almost half are from Tunisia and the other half are from Libya. One thousand migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean during this period.

Increasingly openly xenophobic rhetoric has spread since Tunisian President Kais Saied, who took office in July 2021, condemned illegal immigration in February.

He denounced the arrival of “illegal migrants” in Tunisia from sub-Saharan Africa and plots to “change the demographics” of the country.

Tunisia is going through a severe economic and financial crisis, which is also prompting hundreds of Tunisians to try to reach Europe by sea.

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