41 dead in the migrant ship sinking, according to 4 survivors who set off from Tunisia

ROME (AP) – Forty-one people are believed to have died after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Tunisia in rough seas, the Italian Red Cross and rescue groups said, citing four survivors who were rescued and brought to land on Wednesday.

The survivors reported that they left Sfax, Tunisia, on a metal boat with 45 people on board on 3 August. About six hours into their journey, the ship was capsized by a huge wave, state TV RAI reported.

The Red Cross said in a statement that the four survived using inner tubes and were able to board another empty ship nearby, which is evidence of the large number of boats that set off from Sfax and the rough seas that hit the area in recent days, causing many other ships to die. coup too.

Pictures released by humanitarian rescue group Sea-Watch and captured by its surveillance aircraft showed the four survivors waving for help from the boat as they made their way to the Maltese-flagged commercial tanker, the Rimona. The migrants rescued by the Rimona were then transferred to an Italian coast guard ship that took them to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Wednesday, said Paul Wagner of Sea-Watch.

The European Union’s border agency, Frontex, said it had spotted a boat evading in the Libyan search and rescue area and “notified all national rescue coordination centers in the area” as well as a distress call given it was an emergency. Wagner said Sea-Watch flew to the site, spotted the ship and notified the nearest merchant vessel, the Rimona.

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According to a GPS location shared by Sea-Watch, survivors were spotted within the Libyan search and rescue area about 66 kilometers (40 miles) from Tunisia and about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Lampedusa.

The International Organization for Migration said the shipwreck brings the number of dead and missing to more than 1,800 people in the central Mediterranean, the world’s most active and dangerous migration route.

The Red Cross said that conditions for the four survivors, who are being cared for in Lampedusa, are good and that they will be transferred to the Italian mainland soon. Three of the four claim to be minors, the group said, and the fourth is an adult male, all from Ivory Coast and Guinea. However, UN agencies reported that there was only one minor among them.

A doctor in Lampedusa who treated the four, Dr Adrian Chiaramonte, said they had “slight injuries” and were dehydrated, but “nothing major”.

They said a boat saw them and kept walking. An hour later, they saw a helicopter, and then the oil tanker came “and rescued them,” Chiaramonti told RaiNews24, adding that survivors reported that about 15 people had primitive rescuers. No bodies were recovered.

Rough seas over the weekend resulted in a series of shipwrecks and dramatic rescue attempts to save survivors. Italian authorities have rescued dozens of migrants from the sea and from the rocky reefs off Lampedusa, but at least 30 people have been reported missing by survivors of the capsized ships. Eight bodies washed ashore in Sfax.

Libya’s lawless coasts used to be the main departure point for migrant smuggling operations. But in recent months, the eastern coast of Tunisia, particularly the port of Sfax, has become the main departure point for migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, to reach Italy and other parts of Europe in small boats.

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The new arrivals may have been fueled by the fact that the Tunisian authorities are increasingly repressive on black immigrants. Tunisia President Kais Saied promoted baseless statements Sub-Saharan immigrants are part of a plot to change the country’s identity and demographics, fueling tensions between locals and black foreigners.

Hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants were reported to have been present since early July A group of coastal cities and dumping them in deserted border regions with Libya or Algeria – countries with their own long records of graves Human rights violationsand abuses against immigrants and Mass deportations.

The Tunisian Minister of Interior acknowledged returning small groups to the desert border areas with Libya and Algeria, but denied the mistreatment.

Tunisian authorities estimate that about 17,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa are currently concentrated in the Sfax region.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 93,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, more than double the 45,000 migrants who arrived during the same period in 2022. The most important arriving nationalities are from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Tunisia.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose government includes the right-wing anti-immigrant League party, has urged the European Union to join him in efforts to persuade Tunisia to crack down on smuggling, but the boats keep going.

Calls poured in on Wednesday for Europe to develop safe and legal pathways for migration to prevent future deaths, echoing a necessary echo that follows repeated incidents of deaths of desperate migrants in the Mediterranean seeking a better and safer life in Europe.

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Children’s Agency and the International Organization for Migration said in a statement that the steel-hulled vessel was not particularly suitable for a voyage of this kind, especially given the “extravagant weather and sea conditions”.

“This highlights the utter lack of piety of traffickers who in this way expose migrants and refugees to extremely high risks of death at sea,” the agencies said.

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Renata Brito reported from Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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Follow the AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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