About 20 illegal immigrants of African nationalities died and others lost after their boat sank on the eastern coasts of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The Tunisian authorities said that 5 migrants were rescued, while the search is still ongoing for about 20 missing people who were on board the boat that sank off the coast of the city of Sfax (eastern Tunisia).
The Tunisian navy and Tunisian fishing boats recovered the bodies of the victims, and managed to rescue the five survivors.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Seif Eddine Boualak said that the boat – according to preliminary data – set off from the Tunisian coast.
The Associated Press quoted a spokesman for the Tunisian Ministry of Defense, Muhammad Bin Zakri, as saying that according to survivors’ accounts, the boat was carrying between 40 and 50 people, while its carrying capacity was less than that.
It also quoted the spokesman for the Tunisian National Guard, Ali Ayari, that the boat faced strong winds that may have led to its sinking.
Earlier this year, the Tunisian authorities announced that they had thwarted many irregular migration operations from the eastern coasts of the country, and yet the operations continued.
This year, at least 1,100 irregular migrants were killed or missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean towards the shores of Europe.