At least 48 migrants were killed when their boat sank off Tunisia’s coast over the weekend, in one of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years, Reuters reports.
The boat went down near the southern island of Kerkenna, a tourist spot, in the night to Sunday, Tunisian officials were quoted saying.
The victims were Tunisians and other nationalities. Some 67 people were rescued by the coast guard.
Security officials said the boat was packed with about 180 migrants, including 80 from other African countries.
A survivor said the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coast guard.
Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans often try to depart in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in Italy.
Separately, nine people including six children died on Sunday after a speedboat carrying 15 refugees sank off the coast of Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, the Turkish coast guard said..
Reducing the flow of migrants into Italy is one of the aims of the anti-immigrant League party in Italy and its leader Matteo Salvini who was sworn in as the country’s new interior minister on Friday.
Salvini and his party have promised to block the arrival of boat migrants from Africa and to deport up to 100,000 illegal immigrants per year.
“The objective is to save lives. And this is done by preventing the departures of the boats of death that are a business for some and a disgrace for the rest of the world,” Salvini said in a statement, commenting on both the incidents.
“I will work to ensure that all the international organizations commit to stop departures, landings and deaths.”
As of end-May, 32,080 people had reached Europe by sea so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration said on its website. Some 660 had died attempting the crossing.
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