TUNIS – Tunisia has retrieved 14 remains of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa in the Mediterranean, raising the total number of deaths to 24, according to the coast guard.
The coast guard confirmed on Wednesday that it had retrieved ten dead of Sub-Saharan African migrants following the shipwreck off the coast of Sfax the day before.
However, it was announced on Thursday that 14 more bodies of migrants, including six women, were recovered during search operations, as well as the body of the boat’s Tunisian captain.
According to Faouzi Masmoudi, spokeswoman for the Sfax court that is examining the disaster, the 15 bodies were trapped beneath the boat.
According to a National Guard official, 41 Tunisian migrants, including five women and nine children, were “rescued” off the coast of Sousse on Thursday.
In recent weeks, dozens of migrants, largely from Sub-Saharan Africa, have drowned off the coast of Tunisia in desperate bids to reach Europe.
The country, which has a coastline less than 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a popular stopping point for migrants trying the trek.
Migrant departures from Sub-Saharan Africa increased after Tunisian President Kais Saied delivered an explosive speech in February accusing “hordes” of illegal immigrants of fueling a crime wave and being part of a “plot” to change Tunisia’s demographic make-up.
Following the remarks, there was a surge of evictions and violence against black migrants.
Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed concern on Thursday about the “precarious” condition of asylum seekers and refugees seeking to cross the Central Mediterranean, the world’s worst migration route.
“There is a sharp increase in the number of desperate people putting their lives in grave danger,” he added in a statement.
“We cannot afford to dither and become embroiled in another debate over who is to blame.” Human lives are on the line.”
Tunisia’s coast guard announced this week that it intercepted almost 14,000 migrants attempting to reach Europe between January and March, more than five times the number that made the journey in the first quarter of 2022.
According to the UN, over 26,000 people have perished or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean since 2014, with over 20,000 of them dying or going missing over the Central Mediterranean route alone.