Five African migrants drowned and 28 others are missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia while they were attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. The boat was carrying 38 people, mostly from the Ivory Coast, and had set off from the southern city of Sfax. The Tunisian coastguard rescued five people from the boat.
The incident is the latest in a series of tragedies on the central Mediterranean, which is known as the world’s deadliest migration route. There has been a significant increase in the number of boats departing from the Tunisian coast towards Italy, and the Tunisian authorities have been conducting a campaign of arrests targeting undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration.
President Kais Saied’s remarks about undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration sparked a wave of violence against Black migrants, and landlords fearing fines evicted hundreds of people who are now camping in the streets of Tunis. About 21,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are believed to be in Tunisia, and they have called on the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR to evacuate them.
Why people are fleeing Tunisia
The incident off the coast of Tunisia highlights the ongoing humanitarian crisis facing migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Many of these individuals are fleeing poverty, conflict, and persecution in their home countries and are seeking safety and a better life in Europe.
However, the journey is often dangerous and deadly. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 1,200 migrants and refugees have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2023. The central Mediterranean route, which includes the coast of Tunisia, is particularly deadly, accounting for over 80% of all deaths.
Despite the risks, the number of people attempting to make the journey continues to rise. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the economic situation in many countries, leading more people to seek opportunities abroad. Additionally, political instability, conflict, and human rights abuses in several countries have forced people to flee for their lives.
The situation in Tunisia has also become more complex due to the recent comments made by President Kais Saied about undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration. His remarks have sparked violence against Black migrants and have led to the eviction of hundreds of people who are now homeless and living on the streets.
The UNHCR has called on the Tunisian government to protect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers and to refrain from any actions that may lead to their stigmatization or discrimination. The agency has also urged European countries to provide more support to Tunisia to help it deal with the influx of migrants and refugees.