Two new shipwrecks of migrants in the central Mediterranean have caused the death of at least 29 people this Sunday off the coast of Tunisia, as reported by the Tunisian coast guard.
Both incidents occurred off the coast of Mahdia, some 200 kilometers south of Tunis, the country's capital.
In one of the shipwrecks, 19 migrants perished, while another 10 died in the other.
They were all sub-Saharan.
According to a senior official in the Tunisian national guard, Houssem Jebabli, quoted by Reuters, another 11 migrants managed to be rescued.
In the last four days, another five precarious boats carrying people who wanted to travel to Europe without documents have sunk off the coast of another city, Sfax, also in southern Tunisia, with 67 missing and nine confirmed dead.
Tunisia has taken over from Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East bound for European shores, via Italy, the country where on February 26 an old fishing boat Crowded with migrants, it sank just 150 meters from reaching land, in the waters of the southern region of Calabria.
At least 79 people died, many of them Afghan or Syrian nationals, or from other countries in conflict, making them potential asylum seekers.
In the last four days alone, the Tunisian coast guard has intercepted some 80 boats heading to Italy, carrying some 3,000 migrants from sub-Saharan African countries.
According to statistics from the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, that coast guard has prevented more than 14,000 migrants from leaving Tunisian shores during the first three months of this year, compared to 2,900 in the same period last year.
For its part, the Italian coast guard said on Thursday it had rescued some 750 migrants in two operations off the coast of southern Italy.
According to statistics from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, last year more than 18,000 Tunisian migrants -4,000 of them minors- arrived on its shores and at least 600 people lost their lives in their attempt to cross the Central Mediterranean, which also includes the Libyan coast. .
Europe runs the risk of seeing "a huge wave of migrants from North Africa" arrive on its shores if Tunisia's financial stability is not safeguarded, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Friday.
Meloni asked the IMF and other countries to quickly help the Maghreb country to avoid its collapse.
This increase in attempts to cross the central Mediterranean—considered the deadliest migration route in the world—coincides with a campaign of arrests and xenophobic attacks against sub-Saharan citizens in Tunisia, after the country's president, Kais Said, accused the migrants of sub-Saharan Africans from being part of a plot to change the demography and “Arab-Muslim” identity of the country.
Hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans, mostly from the Ivory Coast and Guinea, have requested voluntary return to their respective countries after losing their jobs — often in the underground economy — and, in some cases, having been expelled from their homes by their owners.
Following criticism from the international community, the government announced measures to facilitate legal residence and voluntary repatriation, as well as a helpline.
Said later defended not being racist "because he has African friends" and accused his detractors of twisting his words to harm the country.
On Friday, some thirty organizations accused the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior of repressing humanitarian campaigns to help migrants.
Follow all the international information on
, or in
our weekly newsletter