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Bodies of eight migrants found off Tunisia

By AFP - Oct 10,2022 - Last updated at Oct 10,2022

TUNIS — The bodies of eight migrants, thought to be Tunisians missing for two weeks, were recovered on Monday off the coast of the north African country, the Red Crescent said.

"Sailors on Monday morning found eight bodies of migrants off Zarzis whose boat was thought to have sunk two weeks ago," Mongi Slim, head of the Red Crescent in Medenine, told AFP.

He said DNA samples have been taken in an attempt to identify the victims.

Tunisia is only about 130 kilometres from Italy's Lampedusa island and has long been a launching pad for people fleeing violence and poverty across the African continent and seeking refuge in Europe.

Local media have reported that a makeshift boat carrying 18 migrants including a baby went missing 15 days ago.

Tunisian coastguards were continuing the search for survivors, the Red Crescent said.

Generally favourable weather from spring to early autumn sees a rise in illegal attempts to reach Italy from Tunisia and Libya, but such Mediterranean crossings often end in tragedy.

According to official figures, more than 22,500 migrants have been intercepted off the Tunisian coast since the start of the year, around half of them from sub-Saharan Africa.

Upwards of 500 people, mostly Tunisians, have been arrested on suspicion of people smuggling over the same period.

Tunisia is currently in the throes of an economic crisis, with an estimated 4 million out of its 12-million-strong population on the poverty line.

The authorities say the coastguard lacks the resources to halt the clandestine flow of migrants trying to reach Europe.

According to EU border agency Frontex, the central Mediterranean route was used by more than 42,500 migrants between January and July, an increase of 44 per cent compared with the first seven months of 2021.

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