On Sunday, March 26, 2023, at least 29 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa died in two separate incidents when their boats sank off the coast of Tunisia.
The migrants had attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.
The Tunisian coast guard reported that it had rescued 11 people off the coast of Mahdia, further north.
Tunisia has replaced Libya as a main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East with the hope of a better life in Europe.
According to Houssem Jebabli, a senior official in the national guard, the Tunisian coast guard rescued 11 people off the coast of Mahdia, further north. The coast guard also stopped around 80 boats from heading to Italy in the last four days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries.
However, the Tunisian authorities have launched a campaign of arrests of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans.
The Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights reported that Tunisia’s coast guard prevented more than 14,000 migrants setting off in boats during the first three months of 2023 compared to 2,900 in the same period last year.
The Italian coast guard reported that it had rescued about 750 migrants in two operations off the southern Italian coast on Thursday.
The Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warned that Europe risks seeing a massive wave of migrants arriving on its shores from North Africa if financial stability in Tunisia is not safeguarded.
Meloni urged the IMF and other countries to help Tunisia quickly to prevent its collapse.
According to UN data, at least 12,000 migrants who arrived in Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared to 1,300 in the same period in 2022.
In the last four days, five migrant boats have sunk off the coast of the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead after a significant increase in boats heading towards Italy.