Tunisian coast guards on Tuesday recovered the bodies of 20 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who drowned off the country’s east coast amid a new wave of dangerous attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
Sfax court spokesman Mourad Tourki said an investigation has been opened following the shipwreck off the Kerkennah Islands.
He said a boat carrying 53 people departed from Sfax toward Italy last week. He says a search continues for the remaining passengers.
Last month, Tunisian authorities said at least one migrant drowned and six were missing from another shipwreck. Over 80 were rescued.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia have jumped by 150 percent in the first four months of the year, compared to the same period last year.
Tunisia is both a transit country for migrants from elsewhere in Africa and a source of Europe-bound migrants.
Tunisian National Guard spokesman Houssemeddine Jebabli aid last week that 140 migrants who were in Tunisia illegally had been arrested.