At least 12 Africans trying to reach Europe by boat have died and 10 others are missing after four migrant boats carrying an estimated 120 people sank after setting out across the Mediterranean, Tunisian maritime officials said Sunday.
The Tunisian navy rescued 98 people out of 120 believed to be on the boats, said Ali Ayari, spokesman for the Tunisian National Guard in the coastal region of Sfax. The region is the jumping-off point for many such migration attempts.
The boats had been en route to Italy, Ayari said. The nationalities of those aboard were unclear, although Tunisian authorities said the migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite rough weather, migration attempts have multiplied lately from both the Tunisian and Libyan coasts, many of which end in tragedy due to the dilapidation of the often-overloaded smuggling boats.
The central Mediterranean, which connects Libya and the Maghreb countries to Italy or Malta, is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The UN agency estimates that more than 1,500 people died or went missing in the area in 2021 and more than 500 so far in 2022.