At least 21 dead in weekend migrant boat sinking: Tunisia court

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FILE PHOTO: Illegal immigrants, guided by officials are seen at the port after the boat caught and rescued by Tunisian coastal guards in Zarzis, Tunisia on August 23, 2015. (Photo by Tasnim Nasri/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
File Photo: ZARZIS, TUNISIA – August 23, 2015. Migrants, guided by officials are seen at the port after the boat caught and rescued by Tunisian coastal guards in Zarzis, Tunisia on August 23, 2015. (Photo by Tasnim Nasri/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

A migrant boat that sank off the coast of Tunisia over the weekend left at least 21 people dead, a court said Tuesday, after four more bodies were found.

Seven survivors were rescued on Sunday and a total of 17 bodies have now been retrieved.

There was little hope of finding more survivors among the remaining four or five missing passengers, said Sfax court spokesman Mourad Turki.

Turki had previously said that the boat had been carrying 29 people, including two Tunisians and people from various sub-Saharan African countries.

Among those drowned were three children, including a baby less than six months old, as well as seven women aged between 20 and 30, and the two Tunisian men.

“Most of the passengers knew each other, some had been working in Tunisia for several months,” Turki said.

The interior ministry had said it foiled 32 attempts to cross the Mediterranean and arrested 262 people between Saturday night and Sunday morning alone.

The International Organization for Migration said that many Ivorians, including women, had been trying to leave Tunisia this summer as they struggled to find work in the North African country.

At the risk of their lives, thousands of migrants regularly attempt to cross the Mediterranean in clandestine boats, trying to reach Europe where they hope to find work and better lives.

Since the start of 2020 until mid-September, more than 8,500 people have been intercepted trying to reach Europe by sea from Tunisia, including 2,104 non-Tunisians, the ministry said.

The number of would-be migrants trying to cross to Europe from Tunisia has been on the rise since 2017, largely driven by economic woes in the North African country, almost a decade after a revolution that many had hoped would bring change.

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