Eleven dead after boat carrying refugees sinks off Tunisia

A boat carrying 27 people, all from Africa, sank off the coast of Sfax city killing 11; officials say 7 were rescued.

African immigrants arrive in a fishing boat carrying 60 to the port of Los Cristianos, in the Canary island of Tenerife, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007. More than 31,000 migrants, mostly from Africa, r
A police source said the boat carrying 27 migrants, all Africans, sank off the coast of the port city of Sfax [File: Arturo Rodriguez/AP]

At least 11 people died, including eight women and three children, and seven others were rescued when a boat carrying refugees sank off southern Tunisia, officials said late on Sunday.

A police source said the boat carrying 27 people, all African nationals, sank off the coast of the port city of Sfax.

Countries in North Africa like Tunisia and Libya are seen as a starting point for migrants and refugees, many of them fleeing wars and hunger, who want to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

More than 620 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean this year – a dangerous sea journey that has killed at least 20,000 since 2014, according to data gathered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In recent years, many European countries have hardened their immigration process, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and aid agencies, who have repeatedly pointed out the inadequate response by maritime authorities when alerted of people left adrift in rickety boats.

About 17,000 people arrived in Italy and Malta this year by boat from Libya and Tunisia. While the number is a threefold increase compared with 2019, it is still drastically lower compared with the previous year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies