More than 50 migrants drown as boat capsizes off Tunisia’s coast

Boat carrying 90 people left Libya on Sunday and sank off Tunisia’s coast the following day.

More than 60 migrants and refugees have died in recent weeks in similar incidents off the Tunisian coast [File: Antonio Sempere/AFP]

At least 57 migrants and refugees have drowned off the coast of Tunisia, while 33 were rescued by workers from an oil platform after a boat that departed from northern Libya sank on Monday.

Tunisian Defence Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Zekri said on Tuesday that the boat capsized off Sfax, on Tunisia’s southeast coast.

He said that personnel on the oil platform who saw the boat going under alerted authorities, and navy units were sent in to search the water for missing passengers.

“Thirty-three Bengalis were rescued [and] 57 others drowned in a boat carrying about 90 migrants that set off from Libya towards Europe,” Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

The nationalities of the people who died were not immediately clear.

Tunisia’s official TAP news agency reported that navy units rescued another 113 migrants from Bangladesh, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa on Monday afternoon as their boat was about to sink off Djerba, an island off the Tunisian coast.

Libya is a frequent departure point for Europe-bound migrants making the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing.

Monday’s incident was at least the fifth deadly boat sinking in the last couple of months off Tunisia involving migrants escaping conflict or poor living conditions.

Earlier this month, 17 migrants drowned and two were rescued after their boat sank off the Tunisian coast.

More than 60 migrants and refugees have died in recent weeks in similar incidents off the Tunisian coast.

The UN estimates that at least 685 people have died or gone missing along the Mediterranean this year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies