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    Sunday, 3 June 2018

    Tunisia migrant death toll rises to at least 60: defence ministry

    The death toll from a ship packed with migrants that sank off Tunisia on Sunday has risen to at least 60, the United Nations migration agency said.
    The overloaded boat went down near the southern island of Kerkenna. At least 100 people were killed or are missing, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
    “Among the 60 victims transferred to the forensic department at Habib Bourguiba hospital in Sfax, 48 are Tunisians ... 12 are non-Tunisian, the identifications are in progress,” Lorena Lando, chief of mission of the IOM in Tunisia said in a statement late on Monday.
    Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coastguard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
    Tunisian authorities, which on Sunday said they had recovered 48 bodies, provided no new figures, but said the coast guard was still searching for dozens of missing migrants.
    The IOM said 68 had been rescued - 60 Tunisians, two Moroccans, one Libyan, one Malian, one Cameroonian national and three Ivorians.
    The IOM said 1,910 Tunisian migrants reached Italy between Jan. 1 and April 30, including 39 women and 307 minors, 293 of whom were unaccompanied.
    Security officials said the boat was packed with about 180 migrants, including 80 from other countries in Africa.
    Survivors said the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coastguard.
    Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans have often tried to cross in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in southern Italy. The North African country’s economy is in crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 threw Tunisia into turmoil with unemployment and inflation soaring.
    On Monday, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Italy will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp”, as he promised tough action to reduce migrant arrivals and send back those who had arrived.More than 50 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean on Sunday, the majority off the coasts of Tunisia and Turkey, while Italy marked a sea change in its policy.
    Tunisian authorities said 47 bodies were recovered off the country's southern coast, close to the city of Sfax, while 68 people were rescued.
    “The coastguard and the navy continue their search with the support of a military plane,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
    The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said there were more than 70 survivors from the shipwreck, with spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo cautioning on Twitter that the final number of missing was still uncertain.
    “There were around 180 of us on board the boat... which sank because of a leak,” a survivor told Tunisia's Mosaique FM radio, describing the boat as around nine metres (30 feet) long.
    Tunisians and migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean to seek a better future in Europe, with 120 mainly Tunisians rescued by their navy in March after trying to reach Italy.
    In October, a collision between a migrant boat and a Tunisian military ship left at least 44 dead, in what Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called a “national disaster”.
    The latest shipwreck is the most deadly in the Mediterranean since February 2 when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya, according to the IOM.
    Turkey shipwreck
    Across the Mediterranean, nine migrants including six children drowned when their vessel sank off the coast of Turkey.
    The group were travelling in a speedboat intending to head illegally to Europe, when the boat hit trouble off the coast of the southern Antalya province, state media reports said.
    Turkey was the main sea route for migrants to Europe in 2015, when more than a million people crossed to Greece.
    That year 3,771 people were recorded as dead or missing in the Mediterranean by the United Nations refugee agency.
    So far this year, 32,601 migrants and refugees have survived the sea crossing and 649 have been recorded as dead or missing.
    A deal struck with the EU in 2016 has drastically reduced the amount of people trying to make the sea crossing, although observers say the numbers have been ticking up again in recent months.
    Italy marks policy shift
    The focal point for Mediterranean migration in recent years has been Italy, where more than 700,000 migrants have arrived since 2013.
    On Sunday the country's new hardline interior minister, Matteo Salvini, headed to Sicily, one of the main landing points for those rescued at sea, to push his anti-immigration agenda.
    His predecessor signed a controversial deal with authorities and militias in Libya — the key departure point on the route to Italy — which has driven down overall arrival numbers by 75 per cent since last summer.
    But Salvini has pledged to go further still, vowing to cut the number of arrivals and speed up deportations.
    “The good times for illegals is over — get ready to pack your bags,” he said Saturday at a rally in Italy's north.
    The latest arrivals, some 158 people, were rescued by a humanitarian boat and reached southern Sicily on Friday.



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