On Thursday, the coast guard announced that Tunisia had recovered 14 bodies of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in the Mediterranean, bringing the total number of casualties to 24 after their boat, which was headed for Europe, sank.
Earlier, the coast guard announced, that it had recovered 10 bodies of sub-Saharan African migrants after the shipwreck the day before off the coastal city of Sfax.
But on Thursday it said 14 more bodies of migrants were discovered, including six women, during search operations, as well as the body of the boat’s Tunisian captain.
Faouzi Masmoudi, the spokesman for the court of Sfax which is investigating the tragedy, told AFP that the 15 bodies had been trapped under the boat.
The spokesman for the National Guard also announced Thursday that 41 Tunisian migrants, including five women and nine children, had been “rescued” off the coast of Sousse.
Dozens of migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have drowned off Tunisia in recent weeks in desperate attempts to reach Europe.
The country, whose coastline is less than 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a favored spot for migrants attempting the journey.
Departures of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa intensified after Tunisian President Kais Saied gave an incendiary speech in February accusing “hordes” of illegal immigrants of causing a crime wave and being part of a “plot” to change Tunisia’s demographic make-up.
The comments led to a wave of evictions and violence against black migrants.
The United Nations’ Human Rights chief Volker Turk voiced alarm on Thursday over the “precarious” situation of asylum-seekers and migrants attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest migration route.
“We are seeing a steep increase in the number of desperate people putting their lives at grave risk,” he said in a statement.
“We cannot afford to dither, and to become embroiled in yet another debate about who is responsible. Human lives are at stake.”
Tunisia’s coast guard said last week it had intercepted over 14,000 migrants trying to reach Europe from January to March, more than five times the number of those who attempted the trip in the first quarter of 2022.
Since 2014 over 26,000 people have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean, including over 20,000 along the Central Mediterranean route alone, according to the UN.