As many as 48 migrants drowned after their ship sank off at the southern coast of Tunisia, officials said on Sunday. According to the Tunisian defence ministry, the rescue operations are underway. More than 60 migrants have been rescued so far by the coastguards. “The coastguard and the navy continue their search with the support of a military plane,” media outlets quoted the Tunisian interior ministry as saying in a statement.
A survivor recounted the horror saying that there were around 180 migrants in the ship, which sank due to a leak, adding that the boat measured at least nine metres long. Another survivor claimed when the ship started sinking, the captain abandoned the vessel to escape arrest.
“I survived by clinging to wood for nine hours,” the second survivor said at a hospital in Sfax in southern Tunisia, where dozens of people are looking for their near and dear ones. Security officials later confirmed that the ship had around 180 migrants on board, with 80 of them hailing from African countries. Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) migration agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said there were over 70 survivors from the shipwreck. IOM Spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo warned that the final number of the migrants missing was still unknown, as per the report.
The latest incident of shipwreck comes after at least 90 migrants were feared drowned off the coast of Libya after their boat capsized in February this year. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. They seek to reach Europe to escape armed conflicts in their respective countries and earn a livelihood. Also, human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe.
According to data provided by the IOM on its website, 32,080 people had reached Europe by sea so far in 2018, while 660 others had died while attempting to cross the continent. Europe is experiencing a major influx of migrants who have been trying to cross the continent, mostly through illegal means, since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.