Between Friday and Sunday, 10 bodies were recovered off Tunisian shores near the Sfax province, according to Tunisia’s news agency. It was not clear whether the dead were from more than one shipwreck. The North African country recovered 901 bodies between the beginning of this year and July 20, its interior minister told parliament last month.
The climbing number of people willing to risk their lives on a famously deadly route epitomizes the unabating desperate living conditions felt across the region, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In June, at least 81 bodies were recovered after a vessel capsized off the coast of Greece carrying migrants from Libya to Italy. Hundreds remain missing, including 100 children, all believed to be dead, according to the U.N. Committee on Migrant Workers.
The staggering number of missing in the June shipwreck brought to the forefront criticisms of Greece’s coast guard and Europe’s migration policy. European Union and European officials have held talks with Tunisian officials this summer aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from the country, which has overtaken Libya as the leading launchpad for migrant routes to Italy. European officials have proposed identifying Tunisia as a “safe third country” that can receive the European Union’s rejected asylum seekers.
New-York-based Human Rights Watch criticized such partnership proposals.
“The Tunisian police, military, and national guard including the coast guard have committed serious abuses against Black African migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers,” it said in an expansive report in July. “With respect to Black Africans, Tunisia is neither a safe place for disembarkation of third country nationals intercepted or rescued at sea, nor a ‘safe third country’ for transfers of asylum seekers.”
“The E.U. should suspend migration control funding to security forces and set human rights benchmarks for further support,” the report’s authors added.
There have been over 2,063 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded in the Mediterranean this year alone — the highest such number since 2017, the tail end of a surge in migrant movement along the sea route from North Africa to Europe.
On Sunday, Italian outfits also rescued 34 people — including a minor and two pregnant women — from a cliff where they had been stranded since Friday.
#Sicilia: stiamo intervenendo sull’isola di Lampedusa insieme all’@ItalianAirForce per recuperare un gruppo di 20 migranti bloccati su una scogliera strapiombante nella zona ad ovest del faro. Seguono aggiornamenti. pic.twitter.com/zN7GJ876Sb
— Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico (@cnsas_official) August 6, 2023