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Five drown off Tunisia coast trying to reach Europe


Another 28 people are still missing after a boat bound for Europe capsized off the coast of Tunisia.

At least five Africans have died and another 28 are missing after a boat sank off the coast of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, a local human rights group said.

Romadan Ben Omar, a member of the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, said on Wednesday that the Tunisian coastguard rescued five people aboard the boat that sank off the coast of the southern city of Sfax.

Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The Sfax coastline has become an important starting point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East for a chance at a better life in Europe.

The incident comes amid a significant increase in boats departing from the Tunisian coast towards Italy, and amid a campaign by Tunisian authorities for arrests targeting illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to unofficial United Nations data, 12,000 of those reaching Italy this year departed from Tunisia, compared to 1,300 in the same period of 2022. Previously, Libya was the main launching pad for migrants from the region.

Last month, Tunisian President Kais Saied said undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration was designed to change Tunisia’s demographic makeup.

His comments sparked a wave of violence against black migrants, and landlords fearing fines have evicted hundreds of people who are now camping in the streets of Tunis.

Kais ordered security forces to deport all migrants living illegally in Tunisia.

The order had caused people to flee the country even though they had not previously intended to make the perilous crossing to Europe, a senior United Nations official said. About 21,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are believed to be in the country of 12 million people.

Tunisia is in a financial crisis and bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have stalled over fears of a debt default, raising concerns in Europe, especially Italy.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani previously said Rome wanted the IMF to unblock the $1.9 billion loan to Tunisia, fearing that without the money the country would be destabilized, causing more people to move to Europe.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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