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14 migrants from sub-Saharan African countries drowned, and 54 others were rescued off the Tunisian coast

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The Tunisian Coast Guard announced, on Thursday, March 09, 2023, that 14 migrants of South African nationalities, sub-Saharan Africa, drowned off the coast, and 54 others were rescued after a boat carrying them sank off the Tunisian coast.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that the Naval Guard units in Sfax (center-east) had found “while combing the coasts” a group whose boat had been “subverted”.

He explained that the Coast Guard managed to “rescue and save 54” people of sub-Saharan African nationalities and “recover 14 bodies.”

This incident comes while a large number of immigrants want to leave Tunisia after statements described as “racist” by Tunisian President Qais Saeed.

In a February 21 speech, the Tunisian president stressed the need to take “urgent measures” to stop the flow of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, stressing that this phenomenon leads to “violence and crimes” and is part of a “criminal arrangement to change the demographic composition” of the country.

There are more than 21,000 immigrants of these nationalities, including students, in Tannus, according to official statistics.

Saeed’s statements were widely condemned by international and Tunisian organizations, which they considered “racist” and “calling for hatred.”

Tunisia is a transit point for thousands of immigrants from sub-Saharan countries who are heading on illegal voyages by sea to the European coasts, particularly Italy.

Italy receives large numbers of migrants arriving from Tunisia across the Mediterranean. According to official figures, this country received more than 32,000 immigrants in 2022, including 18,000 Tunisians.

Tunisia, whose coast is less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, regularly records attempts to leave migrants to Italy.

In an effort to calm him down, Saeed affirmed, upon his reception on Wednesday evening, March 08, 2023, at the Carthage Palace, President of Guinea-Bissau Omar Sissoko Embalo, that sub-Saharan Africans are “our brothers,” according to a video clip published by the Tunisian presidency.

In a speech delivered in French to his guest, Saeed stressed that he only called for respect for his country’s law and sovereignty, stressing that “no country accepts the existence of legislation parallel to its own.”