Some 65 people have drowned off the coast of Tunisia, after their boat sank early Friday about 83 kilometers from the shore as they attempted a Mediterranean Sea crossing.
Another 16 people were rescued and brought to the coastal city of Zarzis by the Tunisian Navy, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. One of them was immediately hospitalized.
UNHCR said the group left the western Libyan city of Zuwara on Thursday night, but the boat quickly ran into trouble because of strong waves.
“This is a tragic and terrible reminder of the risks still faced by those who attempt to cross the Mediterranean,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean. The agency is working with the Tunisian Red Crescent to assist the victims, and warns that the crossings have become more dangerous because of a lack of search and rescue capacity on the Mediterranean Sea.
Friday’s incident was the worst for fatalities since January, when 117 people died or went missing. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported a second incident on Friday, with about 101 migrants returned to the city of Khums by the Libyan Coast Guard.
At least 500 people have died on the Mediterranean route since the beginning of the year, IOM said. At least 17,000 people have tried to cross the sea in 2019, almost all of them headed for Spain or Greece.
Image: IOM file