Baby among two refugees dead after boat capsizes along Tunisia’s coast

More than 1,800 people have died on the Mediterranean route – the world’s deadliest – double last year’s death toll.

Tunisians trying to flee to Europe gather aboard a ship owned by the Tunisian coast guards, after being intercepted by them at sea
Tunisians trying to flee to Europe onboard a ship owned by the Tunisian coastguard [Fethi Belaid/AFP]

A baby is among two refugees and migrants found dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia.

The boat carrying 20 Tunisians sank on Saturday just 120 metres (395 feet) from the coast in Gabes, the coastguard said.

“Two bodies have been recovered, one of a 20-year-old man and the other of an infant,” it said in a statement.

Five passengers were missing and 13 others were rescued.

Gabes’ authorities have begun an operation to “determine the circumstances of this tragedy”, they said.

The incident occurred during a spike in migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe, with Tunisia a major landing point for those making the journey to the continent across the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 1,800 people have died, double last year’s total, on the route – the world’s deadliest.

Adamant about reaching Europe

On Wednesday, 41 people died after a boat capsized leaving the coastal Tunisian city of Sfax, a major migrant launchpad. Four survivors were brought to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

Upon hearing the news of that sinking, some migrants in Tunisia, many of who escaped harrowing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, said they are still adamant about reaching Europe.

Tunisia’s withering economy combined with an explosion in racist violence, triggered by a speech made by President Kais Saied in February, has added urgency to refugees leaving for Europe.

In July, many Black refugees, who were living in Sfax and planning to sail for Europe, were evicted from their homes following the death of a local man believed to have been involved in the attacks against the refugees.

Dozens were rounded up and expelled to Tunisia’s borders with Libya and Algeria, abandoned in the blistering heat of the deserts there by Tunisian authorities. On Wednesday, 27 were found dead at the Libyan border.

Last month, the European Union signed an agreement with Tunisia in a 105 million euros ($115m) aid deal to prevent the departure of migrant boats.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies