UN 'deeply saddened' by deadly migrant shipwreck off Tunisia


Survivors said there were at least 180 people on board when the overloaded fishing vessel began to sink late on Saturday night near Tunisia's Kerkennah Islands off Sfax.

"12 are non-Tunisian the identifications are in progress", Lorena Lando, chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tunisia.

More than 32,000 people have reached Europe by sea so far this year, the IOM says, and 660 people have died attempting the crossing.

The number of immigrants killed by the sinking of the vessel in which they were traveling on the southeastern coast of Tunisia on Sunday rose to 112, the United Nations migration agency revealed today.

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"I survived by clinging to wood for nine hours", he said at a hospital in the southern city of Sfax, where dozens of people gathered to look for survivors and identify dead relatives.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed made the announcement during his visit to Kerkennah, two days after the incident in which 68 others were rescued.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khalifa Chibani said Tunisian security forces intercepted eight individuals involved in planning this illegal transporting of migrants.

Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans often try to depart in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in Italy.

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Tunisia stopped about 6,000 migrants leaving its coast for Europe in the first five months of the year - a sharp increase from the few hundred prevented in the same period last year, an interior ministry official said. According to reports, two smugglers were arrested in connection with the incident.

Tunisia has become an important new route for migrants trying to reach Europe in the past year, and Kerkennah is known as one of the main illegal gateways.

Countries must offer refugees "legal pathways" including resettlement, family reunification and student visas, he said.

In the Mediterranean Sea, 785 migrants lost their lives since the beginning of 2018, comparing 1,650 deaths in 2017 through 4 June; at this time in 2016 the figure was 2,512, IOM said.

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