The bodies of nine migrants from sub-Saharan African countries have been found in western Tunisia, near the border with Algeria, in recent days, a judicial official said on Wednesday.
Tunisia, whose coastline is less than 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a favored stepping stone for migrants attempting the perilous sea journey from North Africa to Europe.
The bodies have been discovered in the mountains near Haidra, a town in Kasserine province, and authorities have launched an investigation that would include autopsies “to determine the cause of death,” said Riadh Nwiwi, spokesman for the Kasserine court.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, a migrant support group, said in a statement that “preliminary information” points to “cold, thirst and fatigue” as the causes of the migrants’ deaths.
According to AFP, Nwiwi noted a rise in irregular migration from other parts of Africa across the Algeria-Tunisia border, and specifically in the forested area near Haidra.
FTDES urged Tunisian authorities to provide a “humanitarian response” to the “deadly migration policies of the European Union which has contravened the right to movement of the people of the (Global) South.”
Since the start of the year, dozens of migrants have drowned in a series of shipwrecks off Tunisia’s shores while trying to reach Europe. The group denounced “the silence of the Tunisian authorities on the tragedies of migration and the policy of militarization of the borders.”