At least two people have died and 14 are missing after a boat filled with migrants hoping to reach Europe capsized off the coast of Tunisia.
Tunisia’s national guard spokesman, Houssameddine Jbabli, said authorities rescued nine people from a boat, recovered two bodies and are searching for 14 missing passengers near the city of Sfax.
He said Tunisian coastguard patrols have detained 192 people and stopped 10 boats bound for Europe over the last two days. All those detained were Tunisian, except for three Iraqis.
The stepped-up efforts against illegal migration came as Tunisia mobilised more than 100,000 security agents around the country for Sunday’s presidential election.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean a rescue ship pulled 48 people from a small wooden craft off the coast of Libya.
With Europe’s policy towards migrants in flux, the Ocean Viking went out for another search and rescue mission off Libya after taking 82 people to the small Italian island of Lampedusa.
BREAKING: #MSF & @SOSMedIntl teams have just rescued 48 people from a wooden boat in distress, 53 NM from the coast of #Libya. Women, very young children & a newborn are among the survivors now safely onboard the #Ocean Viking, now heading to investigate another possible case. pic.twitter.com/esv33eW2W7— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) September 17, 2019
On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after setting sail, one of the crew of the humanitarian rescue ship spotted the small wooden boat. Among the passengers were five women and nine children, including a newborn.
Many migrants launch from the coast of Tunisia and neighbouring Libya, usually in boats too flimsy for the journey.
North Africa is both a source of migrants and a transit point for other migrants seeking to reach Europe.
Once there, their future is uncertain as governments argue over how to handle the newcomers. Many hoping to move northward from Italy and Spain end up in tents, makeshift lean-tos or shelters.
- Press Association