At least 29 migrants from sub-Saharan African countries have drowned in three shipwrecks off Tunisia, the coast guards announced on Sunday March 26. Coastguards have recovered 29 bodies and 'rescued 11 illegal migrants of multiple African nationalities after their boats sank' off the coast of central-eastern Tunisia, according to a statement that lists three separate incidents .
A Tunisian trawler recovered nineteen bodies after a boat sank 58 kilometers offshore, while a coast guard patrol found eight bodies off the coastal town of Mahdia and rescued eleven migrants whose boat, which was heading for Italy, capsized, while trawlers recovered two other bodies.
Several dozen migrants have died in a series of shipwrecks and others have been missing since President Kais Saied's violent speech on illegal immigration on February 21. After this speech, a good number of the 21,000 nationals of sub-Saharan Africa officially registered in Tunisia, most of them in an irregular situation, had lost their jobs, generally informal, and their housing overnight, as a result of the campaign against the illegals.
Most African migrants arrive in Tunisia and then attempt to illegally immigrate by sea to Europe, with some stretches of the Tunisian coastline being less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
France and Italy call for support for Tunisia
President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Friday called for support for Tunisia, which is facing a serious financial crisis, in order to contain the "migration pressure" that this country represents for Europe. Rome fears an explosion in the flow of migrants to its coasts, favored by economic and political difficulties in Tunisia, but also by good weather which facilitates crossings.
Tunisia has been negotiating for several months with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a loan of nearly 2 billion dollars, but discussions between the two parties seem to have stalled since an agreement in principle announced in mid-October.
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, for his part warned on Monday that the situation in Tunisia was "very dangerous", even mentioning a risk of "collapse" of the State likely to "cause migratory flows towards EU and cause instability in the MENA region” (Middle East and North Africa). An analysis described as "disproportionate" by Tunis.