Migrant bodies recovered off Tunisia

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Tunisia’s Coast Guard recovered the bodies of 14 African migrants drowned when their boat carrying more than 80 people sank after setting off for Europe from neighbouring Libya, the Tunisian Red Crescent said.

Tunisian fishermen rescued four people but one later died in hospital, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said. The others on the overcrowded boat were feared drowned.

At least 65 migrants heading for Europe from Libya drowned last May in a similar mishap.

Libya’s west coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe, though numbers have dropped due to an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan Coast Guard.

Fighting in Libya has made the situation more difficult for people smugglers international aid officials warn it could also prompt more Libyans to flee their country.

Libyans picked up by the Libyan Coast Guard are routinely brought back to Libya and detained. The United Nations pleaded with Libya’s government to free the detainees, some locked up for years.

In May, 108 migrants and refugees were sent to the Tajoura detention centre near Tripoli, which was hit by air strikes last week killing at least 53 people.