At least 17 migrants drowned as a boat sank off Tunisia, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday, citing two survivors rescued near an oil platform.
IOM said the boat had left on Tuesday from the port of Zwara in Libya, a key gateway for Europe-bound migrants mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.
Two women from Niger survived and were rescued by authorities off the Tunisian port of Sfax, IOM said, adding the pair were taken to hospital.
According to the IOM, more than 500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from the shores of North Africa to Italy and Malta since the start of 2021.
So far this year, some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s shores — a sizeable increase from about 4,200 and 1,100, respectively, for the same periods in 2020 and 2019.
On Tuesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said during a visit to Portugal that his country was opposed to setting up on its territory centres to take in migrants trying to cross to Europe.
Mechichi said Tunisia, which is grappling with social and political crises, “is not ready at all to accept citizens of other countries”.