In the Mediterranean, the deadliest quarter since 2017 according to the UN

A new shipwreck occurred in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday April 11 off Tunisia and ten migrants from sub-Saharan Africa seeking to reach Europe illegally died, the Tunisian coast guard announced on Wednesday

In the Mediterranean, the deadliest quarter since 2017 according to the UN

A new shipwreck occurred in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday April 11 off Tunisia and ten migrants from sub-Saharan Africa seeking to reach Europe illegally died, the Tunisian coast guard announced on Wednesday.

A new tragedy in the Mediterranean comes as the UN sounds the alarm: according to the United Nations, the first quarter of the year 2023 was the deadliest for migrants crossing the Mediterranean since 2017 with 441 lives lost.

The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that this figure of 441 deaths between January and March 2023 is even below reality. “With over 20,000 deaths recorded on this route since 2014, I fear these deaths have been normalized,” she warned, adding that “delays and gaps in search and rescue operations by the States cost human lives”. IOM said such delays have been a factor in at least six cases since the start of the year, resulting in the death of at least 127 of the 441 people counted.

"The complete lack of response during a seventh rescue operation claimed the lives of at least seventy-three migrants" still included in this same tally, IOM said in a statement, adding that search efforts and rescue from non-governmental organizations have declined markedly in recent months.

A "persistent" and "intolerable" crisis

"The continuing humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean is intolerable," said IOM Chief Antonio Vitorino. The UN agency's "Missing Migrants" project is also investigating several cases of missing boats, where there are no traces of survivors, debris and where no search and rescue operations have been carried out. .

Some three hundred people on board these boats are still missing, the organization said.

“Saving lives at sea is a legal obligation for states,” Vitorino stressed. “We need proactive coordination of states in search and rescue efforts. Guided by the spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity, we call on States to work together and strive to reduce the loss of life along the migration routes,” he added.

Strong increase in departure attempts

Tuesday, in Tunisia, off Sfax, "seventy-two migrants were rescued and ten bodies were recovered after the shipwreck of the boat on Tuesday," the spokesperson for the national guard, Houssem Jebabli.

In total, seventy-six migrants including only four Tunisians were rescued. In addition to the ten dead, "between twenty and thirty" other African migrants are missing after the sinking off Sfax, told AFP the spokesperson for the local court responsible for investigating this tragedy, Faouzi Masmoudi.

Twenty-seven migrants from sub-Saharan Africa had died or are missing following two other shipwrecks on Friday and Saturday off the Tunisian coast. At the end of March, the bodies of twenty-nine other migrants also from sub-Saharan Africa had been recovered after three separate shipwrecks off Tunisia.

Tunisia, some portions of the coastline of which are less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, very regularly records attempts by migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan African countries, to leave for Italy. These departures intensified after a violent speech on February 21 by Tunisian President Kaïs Sïed slamming illegal immigration.

On Friday, the National Guard announced that it had rescued or intercepted "14,406 people, including 13,138 from sub-Saharan Africa, the rest being Tunisians", over the first three months of the year, more than five times the number recorded for the same period in 2022.