Tens were saved and 25 bodies were recovered following the shipwreck of a migrant boat off the coast of Tunisia.
The Tunisian coastguard reported on Thursday that 25 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa had drowned in the Mediterranean after a boat capsized, on Tuesday, off the coast of Sfax.
On Wednesday, the coastguard reported having recovered 10 bodies, and on Thursday, another 15 were recovered after having been trapped beneath the boat according to the spokesperson for the court of Sfax, Faouzi Masmoudi.
The recovered bodies included that of the boat’s captain, six women, as well as other men.
Off the coast of Sousse, however, 41 Tunisians were reportedly saved on Thursday according to the spokesperson for the Tunisian national guard.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Tunisian coastguard spokesperson Houssem Jebabli reported that “seventy-two migrants were rescued” off the city of Sfax.
In a report published on Tuesday, the chief of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN agency, said that “saving lives at sea is a legal obligation for states,” adding, “We need to see proactive, state-led coordination in search-and-rescue efforts.”
Moreover, a statement published by the IOM highlighted the need for governments to not only end the “criminalization, obstruction, and deterrence” of NGO personnel that sought to enhance SAR operations but also to support these NGOs.
UN says migrant crisis marks deadliest quarter, urges swift rescue ops
The most fatal quarter for central Mediterranean migrants since 2017, according to the IOM has been the 2023 quarter, which extended from January to March, in which 144 lives have been lost amid increased crossings to Europe. It is also important to note that the IOM has also stated that the number of deaths in the first three months of 2023 has probably been an undercount.
The IOM noted that the delay in government agencies’ search and rescue (SAR) operations has aggravated the situation and resulted in increased fatality rates among migrants from North Africa. The organization had blamed at least the death of 127 people, in six various incidents, on delays in SAR operations.
A statement by the IOM, moreover, reaffirmed that “the complete absence of response to a seventh case claimed the lives of at least 73 migrants,” before adding that SAR efforts by non-governmental organizations also diminished since the start of 2023.
IOM chief Antonio Vitorino said that “the persisting humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean is intolerable,” adding that “with more than 20,000 deaths recorded on this route since 2014, I fear that these deaths have been normalised. States must respond.”
In the first three months of this year, the number of migrants arriving in Italy has reached almost 32,000 compared with 8,000 in the same period in 2022. Over the Easter weekend alone, the IOM reported, about 3,000 migrants reached Italian shores.
In a similar vein, a statement by the Missing Migrants Project, also a UN agency, made a heartbreaking announcement that it is investigating multiple cases of migrant boats being reported missing. These boats have no record of survivors, no record of initiated SAR operations, and none of the remains were ever retrieved. These vessels remain missing, according to the organization, which highlighted that the fate of approximately 300 people also remains unclear.