Forty-one people are believed dead after a boat capsized off Tunisia, according to Italian state RAI television that cited four survivors who were rescued and brought to land on Wednesday.
According to RAI and ANSA news agency, the four were first rescued by the Maltese-flagged bulk carrier Rimona in the Straits of Sicily. They were then transferred to the Italian coastguard, which brought them to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
Keep readinglist of 2 items
The boat set off on Thursday morning from Tunisia’s Sfax, a hot spot in the migration crisis, but capsized and sank after a few hours, the survivors were quoted as saying.
Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland, is a frequent destination for human smugglers and has seen its migrant holding centre repeatedly overcrowded with new arrivals this summer.
Alessandra Filograno, a spokeswoman for the Italian Red Cross, confirmed four survivors arrived at the Lampedusa centre on Wednesday morning: two men, a woman and an unaccompanied minor. Filograno had no further information.
Neither ANSA nor RAI provided attribution for the information but reported the four survivors – who hailed from Ivory Coast and Guinea – as saying that 41 people died, including three children.
This summer, there have been numerous shipwrecks of smugglers’ boats leaving from Tunisia bound for Italy.
According to the Italian interior ministry, more than 93,000 undocumented people have arrived in Italy so far this year by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, more than twice the 45,000 who arrived during the same period in 2022.
The top nationalities of those arriving are from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Tunisia.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose right-wing government includes the anti-migration League party, has galvanised the European Union to join it in efforts to coax Tunisia to crack down on smuggling operations, but the boats continue to set off.