Despite the bad weather conditions, attempts to cross the Mediterranean did not stop from the Tunisian and Libyan coasts: during the weekend of February 20 and 21, 157 migrants spread over two boats were intercepted by the Tunisian navy at the time. that they were trying to reach Europe. Two bodies were also recovered, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.
The first interception took place on Saturday when “54 illegal migrants were rescued after their boat broke down off the coast of Mahdia province”, in the center-east of the country, Ali Ayari told AFP. -regional voice of the Maritime National Guard, which depends on the ministry. It was also at this time that the lifeless bodies of two Tunisians were found.
The boat, which left Tunisia, was made up entirely of men, mainly Tunisians, as well as three Syrians.
The next day, 103 people including six women and five minors were intercepted aboard another broken down boat off Chebba, also in the center-east of the country, according to a press release from the Interior Ministry.
The group, which had taken to sea on February 16 from the Libyan port of Zouara for Italy, was made up of Syrians, Egyptians, Sudanese, Somalis and even Bangladeshis, Ali told AFP. Ayari.
Tunisians, the first nationality to land in Italy
Since the beginning of the year, 3,800 migrants have arrived illegally in Italy by sea according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), including nearly 1,000 via Tunisia and 2,500 via Libya.
With some 12,000 arrivals recorded in 2020, Tunisians represent the main nationality to disembark illegally in Italy, according to the UNHCR.
Since the 2011 revolution, irregular departures from the Tunisian coasts have continued to increase, while the past year has been marked by an upsurge of boats in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migratory route in the world for candidates for exile. to Europe.
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