The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says at least eight people lost their lives and 20 others went missing after a refugee boat collided with a Tunisian ship off the coast of the North African country.
Flavio Di Giacomo of the IOM said Monday that some 75 Tunisian refugees were presumably on the wooden boat when it collided a day earlier with a Tunisian naval ship. Some 38 people were rescued from the boat, Tunisian authorities said later.
The Tunisian Defense Ministry said the collision took place about 54 kilometers off the coast of El Ataya, on the island of Kerkennah. The ministry did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Tunisia has seen a surge in the number of refugee departures from its coasts toward the north to Italy. Some 1,400 Tunisians arrived in Italy last month alone, the IOM says, adding that the total number of arrivals from the North African country in the first eight months of the year was 1,357.
Some NGOs say the number could be higher and that three times the IOM figure have arrived since June.
The increase in refugee arrivals from Tunisia came after Italian authorities reached a deal with Libya, a neighbor of Tunisia, to contain the refugee flow.
However, most of those arriving from Tunisia are nationals of the country and not the sub-Saharan Africans, as it was the case from Libya. That could suggest that Tunisia’s economic crisis could have also played a role in the influx.
Some 2,658 refugees have died this year trying to cross the central Mediterranean, the IOM, a UN body monitoring refugee movement, says. The figure was 3,682 overall last year.
By Africafrique and agencies