A boat carrying 37 migrants and smugglers sank off the Tunisian coast. Rescue work is still ongoing.
Four pregnant women were among the 20 migrants whose bodies were found off the Tunisian coast after their smuggling boat sank, Tunisian authorities said Friday, adding that searches were continuing for 13 others now believed to be missing, ABC News reported.
Nineteen of the twenty migrants who died in Thursday’s sinking were women, according to Mourad Torqui, a court spokesman for the Sfax region in central Tunisia.
Coastguard officers and local fishermen retrieved the bodies and brought them ashore before transporting them in white body bags to a nearby hospital, where autopsies were carried out.
According to Torqui, four migrants were rescued: one remains under medical supervision on Friday, while another escaped from the hospital.
Torqui said the overloaded and in poor condition boat was carrying 37 people – three Tunisians and other sub-Saharan Africans. Coastguard boats and divers searched for 13 missing people but found no new bodies or survivors on Friday, due to incredibly strong winds and high waves in the area.
Tunisian authorities say they have recently intercepted several boats carrying smugglers, but despite attempts by the authorities to stop illegals from entering the country, the number of attempts is growing, especially between the Sfax region and the Italian island of Lampedusa, officials say.
Migrant smuggling boats often depart Tunisia and neighbouring Libya with migrants from all over Africa, including a growing number of Tunisians fleeing prolonged economic hardship in their country.
The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs caught more than eight thousand irregular migrants in the first nine months of 2020, from January to September alone.