Migrant smuggling kingpin arrested


Tunisia arrested the kingpin of a migrant smuggling operation after at least 87 people drowned when their boat sank off the southern coast, government said.

The boat sank off Kerkenna Island from where it had set out. Dozens were rescued by the coastguard.

The Defence Ministry said the man was arrested on Friday with another man described as his business partner, a military man, attempting to take them out of Kerkenna in his car.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed sacked Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem and 10 security officials for failing to stop the boat. Security forces cracked down on migrant smugglers in several parts of Tunisia.
“The security forces arrested the main organiser of the illegal immigration operation in Kerkenna,” the Interior Ministry said.

His partner was a military man, according to the Defence Ministry. The men were not identified.

Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coastguard, aided by armed groups, tightened control.

Tunisia stopped about 6,000 migrants leaving its coast for Europe in the first five months of the year, an increase from the few hundred prevented in the same period last year, an Interior Ministry official told Reuters.