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Death toll from Tunisia migrant boat tragedy climbs to 34

Update: October, 17/2017 - 15:00
Tunisians protest in Tunis on October 12, 2017, after they lost relatives in the Mediterranean as they attempted to cross to Europe by boat. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

TUNIS  Tunisia’s navy has found the bodies of 26 migrants at sea a week after their boat collided with a navy vessel, bringing the death toll to 34, the defence ministry said.

On October 8, a migrant boat sank following a collision with a navy vessel off the coast of the Kerkennah islands in the Mediterranean.

At the time, the defence ministry said eight migrants drowned and 38 others were rescued, while NGOs spoke of dozens still missing.

On Sunday night, a navy search and rescue vessel spotted the remains of the migrant boat and pulled out 10 bodies, the ministry said in a statement.

The bodies of 16 other migrants were found on Monday, defence ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said, putting the overall death toll so far from the collision to 34.

One of the migrants rescued after the tragedy said that 90 people had been on board, hoping to make their way to Italy.

An NGO, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, estimates the boat carried between 80 and 100 migrants.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, there has been a rise in the number of migrants trying to make the perilous sea crossing from Tunisia to Europe since summer.

Small vessels have been heading for the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa.

Flavio di Giacomo, an Italian spokesman for the IOM, said earlier this month that 1,400 Tunisians had arrived in Lampedusa and western Sicily in September alone.

This is compared to 1,200 registered in Italy for all of 2016.

The FTDES said in a report last year that half of Tunisian youths from low-income areas were thinking of leaving the country, and one in three was prepared to do so clandestinely.

It blamed the situation on increasing poverty and unemployment in the North African country. — AFP

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