Dozens of migrants missing after boat sinks between Tunisia and Sicily
t least eight migrants are feared to have drowned after their boat collided with a Tunisian vessel in the Mediterranean. The collision happened in the middle of the night, southwest of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The migrant boat is believed to have left Sfax on the coast of Tunisia and to have been heading towards Sicily.
The boat was reportedly carrying around 70 migrants. Around 40 have been rescued from the sea, meaning that 20 or more are still unaccounted for.Maltese and Italian coast guard vessels have been dispatched to the area. It is not yet known how the collision happened.
The number of boats leaving Tunisia and Algeria has increased in recent weeks, as the flow of migrants and refugees from neighbouring Libya has been drastically reduced through alleged deals between trafficking gangs and the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
It has been alleged that Italy has in effect bought off trafficking militia in western Libya, persuading them to stop launching boats full of migrants and refugees.
The allegations have been denied by the Italian government as well as by Fayez al-Sarraj, the Libyan premier. There was no “secret deal” with smuggling gangs, he told the French newspaper Le Monde last week.
“There is an accord with Italy to help Libyan municipalities in the north and south develop the economy and create jobs. But there is no accord of the type you are talking about, that is to say supporting an armed group,” he said.
Stability in Libya was key to fighting people smuggling. “If we don’t succeed, then this flow of migrants will affect Libya and Europe, along with the terrorist organisations trying to infiltrate it," he said.