Tunisia: Captain fearing arrest abandons boat , leaves behind at least 60 dead migrants

By Middle East Affairs

The United Nations migration agency said that at least 60 migrants had died when their sink sank off the coast of Tunisia on Sunday.

The International Organization for Migration announced that over 100 migrants were either dead or missing after the overloaded boat sank near the southern island of Kerkenna.

On Monday, Chief of the mission of the IOM in Tunisia, Lorena Lando said, “Among the 60 victims transferred to the forensic department at Habib Bourguiba hospital in Sfax, 48 are Tunisians … 12 are non-Tunisian, the identifications are in progress.”

Tunisia is often used as the starting point by human traffickers to smuggle migrants towards Europe, as Libya’s coast guard is guarded by armed groups and has much tighter controls.

Tunisian authorities on Sunday had found the bodies of 48 dead migrants and continued looking for the rest of the missing.

The IOM announced that it found the bodies of 60 Tunisians, two Moroccans, one Libyan, one Malian, one Cameroonian national and three Ivorians.

This year between January 1st and April 30, the IOM recorded 1,910 Tunisian migrants reaching Italy, 39 of whom were women and 307 minors, 293 of which were unaccompanied.

Sunday’s boat was carrying 180 migrants, including 80 from other countries in Africa.

The boat’s captain has abandoned the ship as soon as it had started sinking so he wouldn’t be arrested by the coast guard.

With an economic crisis looming and high unemployment African migrants from Tunisia and other North African countries often seek refuge in Italy with the hopes of gaining employment and providing for their families back home. In 2011, Tunisia toppled autocrat Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali which skyrocketed unemployment and inflation in the country.

Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Monday said that “Italy will no longer be Europe’s refugee camp,” as he promised tough actions for migrants seeking to make it to Italy.

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