Four Tunisian migrants on the ship when it sank say 41 people died. In rough seas, a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Tunisia, the Italian Red Cross and rescue organizations reported Wednesday, citing four survivors rescued and brought to shore.
On August 3, the survivors reported leaving Sfax, Tunisia, on a metal boat with 45 passengers. According to RAI state television, a massive surge capsized the ship six hours into its voyage.
The Red Cross stated in a statement that the four survived using inner tubes and were able to clamber onto a nearby empty vessel, evidence of the large number of boats departing from Sfax and the rough seas that have plagued the region in recent days, resulting in multiple other capsizes.
The monitoring aircraft of the humanitarian rescue organization Sea-Watch captured images of the four survivors waving for assistance from the boat and making their way to the Rimona, a commercial tanker flying the flag of Malta. Paul Wagner of Sea-Watch stated that the migrants rescued by the Rimona were transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel on Wednesday, which transported them to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
Frontex, the border agency of the European Union, reported that it had detected a boat adrift in the Libyan search and rescue region and “informed all national rescue coordination centers in the region” as well as issuing a mayday signal due to the emergency nature of the situation. Wagner stated that Sea-Watch flew to the location, located the vessel, and alerted the closest merchant vessel, the Rimona.
The GPS coordinates provided by Sea-Watch indicate that the survivors were observed within the Libyan search and rescue zone approximately 66 kilometers (40 miles) from Tunisia and about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Lampedusa.
According to the International Organization for Migration, the shipwreck increases the number of dead and missing in the central Mediterranean, the most active and dangerous migration route, to over 1,800.
According to the Red Cross, the four survivors cared for on Lampedusa are in good health and will shortly be transferred to the Italian mainland. According to the group, three claim to be juveniles, while the fourth is an adult male from Ivory Coast and Guinea. However, United Nations agencies reported only one minor among them.
Dr. Adrian Chiaramonte, a physician in Lampedusa who treated the four, stated that they had suffered “small wounds” and dehydration but “nothing major.”
“They reported that one yacht saw them and continued on its way. ” An hour later, they saw a helicopter, and then the oil tanker came and rescued them,” Chiaramonte told RaiNews24, adding that the survivors reported that approximately 15 people were equipped with primitive life preservers. No remains have been found.
Several shipwrecks and dramatic rescue operations to save survivors marked the weekend. In Sfax, eight bodies drifted ashore.
The lawless coastlines of Libya were once the primary departure point for human smuggling operations. In recent months, however, the eastern coast of Tunisia, particularly the port city of Sfax, has become the primary launching point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan Africa, attempting to reach Italy and other European countries via small vessels.
Recent departures may have been influenced by the fact that Tunisian authorities are clamping down on Black migrants more frequently. President Kais Saied of Tunisia has promoted unsubstantiated claims that sub-Saharan migrants are part of a conspiracy to alter the country’s identity and demographics, fueling tensions between locals and foreigners of African descent.
Since early July, it has been reported that hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants have been rounded up from coastal cities and dumped in desolate border regions with Libya or Algeria—countries with lengthy histories of grave human rights violations, abuses against migrants, and mass deportations.
The interior minister of Tunisia has admitted that small groups are forced back into desert border regions with Libya and Algeria, but he has denied mistreatment.
The Tunisian government estimates that approximately 17,000 sub-Saharan people reside in the Sfax region.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 93,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, more than twice as many as during the same period in 2022 (45,000). Guinea, Ivory Coast, Egypt, and Tunisia are the leading countries of origin for newcomers.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose right-wing government includes the anti-immigrant League party, has rallied the EU to join her in urging Tunisia to clamp down on smuggling operations, but boats continue to depart.
Wednesday saw an outpouring of calls for Europe to develop safe and legal migration routes to prevent future deaths, echoing a refrain that has emerged in response to the recurrent deaths of desperate migrants in the Mediterranean who were seeking better, safer lives in Europe.
The U.N. refugee agency, the U.N. children’s agency, and the IOM stated in a joint statement that the steel-hulled ship was notably unsuitable for a trip of this nature, given the “prohibitive weather and sea conditions.”
The agencies stated, “This demonstrates the utter lack of scruples of human traffickers who expose migrants and refugees to extremely high risks of dying at sea.”