Tunisian navy rescues 178 migrants, recovers 2 bodies

Staff Correspondent

29 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Tunisian naval forces recovered two bodies and rescued 178 migrants, including an unspecified number of Bangladeshis, from the Mediterranean on Sunday.

Two bodies were recovered during the rescue operation, said spokesman of Tunisian Defence Ministry Mohamed Zekri. He said the migrants were rescued as an oil rig in the area sounded the alarm when it found boats transporting them from Libya to Europe broke down.

It was the second large-scale rescue in the area in 48 hours. At least 267 migrants, including 264 Bangladeshis, were rescued from the Mediterranean off the Tunisian coast when they were trying to sail across the sea from Libya to Italy.

With the latest incident, over 500 Bangladeshis heading towards Europe were rescued off the Tunisian coast in the last 90 days, said an official at the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli.

Among them, some 221 Bangladeshis were rescued in the Mediterranean between May 18 and June 24.

The IOM estimates that over 1,000 migrants hoping to reach Europe had set off from Libya and ended up in Tunisia since January, and the number of departures is rising.

There have been 11,000 departures from January to April 2021 from Libya, over 70 percent more than the same period last year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR said the ‘deteriorating’ conditions of migrants in Libya and Tunisia are pushing many to make the dangerous crossing from the North African coast to Europe. Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said centres set up to house migrants in Tunisia are full.

According to the UN, at least 760 people have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea between 1 January and 31 May this year. The figure of deaths was 1,400 last year.