Tragedy Strikes as Boat Sinks off Tunisia’s Coast: 5 Dead and 7 Missing.
A heartbreaking incident unfolded off the coast of Tunisia, where a boat bound for Europe sank, claiming the lives of at least five individuals, while seven others remain missing. The details were revealed by a judicial official from Sfax, the port city.
According to Court spokesman Faouzi Masmoudi, the ill-fated boat carried a total of 35 passengers, predominantly Tunisians, including women and children. It tragically sank shortly after setting off from the Sidi Mansour coast near Sfax. Among the victims, there was a child and two women. Thankfully, 23 people were rescued from the ordeal. The tragic incident unfolded less than an hour after the boat’s departure.
Tunisia serves as a significant route for refugees and migrants seeking passage to Europe. Recent months have witnessed a notable increase in the number of people departing from Tunisia in an attempt to reach European shores. Just last week, a boat carrying 20 Tunisians capsized a mere 120 meters from the coast of Gabes, resulting in at least two deaths, including that of an infant.
The court has launched a comprehensive investigation into this latest shipwreck, confirmed Masmoudi. Meanwhile, search and rescue operations are underway. The International Organization for Migration grimly reports that over 1,800 lives have been lost this year alone on the central Mediterranean route – a route that has sadly become known as the world’s deadliest.
In a surge of numbers, the Tunisian coastguard has intercepted around 34,290 individuals attempting to make the perilous journey to Europe in the six months leading up to June 20. Most of these individuals hail from sub-Saharan African countries. This stark figure stands in stark contrast to the 9,217 interceptions recorded during the same period in 2022.
The surge in departures from sub-Saharan African countries to cross the Mediterranean follows Tunisian President Kais Saied’s assertion in a February speech that irregular migrants were causing increased criminal activity and posing a demographic threat to the predominantly Arab nation.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, a clash between refugees, migrants, and Tunisian locals in Sfax on July 3 led to numerous Black sub-Saharan Africans being arrested or forced into the desert. This followed the tragic stabbing of a Tunisian man during the altercation.
Against the backdrop of a challenging economic crisis and severe shortages of essential goods, a growing number of Tunisians have also turned to dangerous sea journeys. In response, a “strategic partnership” deal was signed in July between the European Union and the Tunisian government, allocating 100 million euros ($109 million) to assist Tunisia in addressing undocumented immigration.
Nonetheless, the European Union’s collaboration with President Saied has faced criticism due to his increasing authoritarian approach, both concerning refugees and migrants, as well as his handling of domestic opposition.