Tunisia’s navy rescued almost 100 migrants from a sinking boat off its southeast coast hours after eight people being smuggled to Europe drowned in the same stretch of water.
The incidents coincided with the launch of joint patrols by the Tunisian and Italian navies to stem migrant flows and carry out search and rescue operations in the area, the Tunisian Defence Ministry said.
Tunisia’s coast has become the launch pad of choice for traffickers transporting migrants from North Africa across the Mediterranean.
Wooden boats packed with migrants, their numbers often swelled by young Tunisians seeking work in Europe, started landing on secluded Sicilian beaches, often in broad daylight.
Activity via Libya, until recently the busiest country of departure on that route, has declined since July as its coast guard and an armed group in the smuggling hub of Sabratha tightened controls.
The Tunisian Interior Ministry said on Monday the coastguard pulled 98 Tunisians, including three children, from a sinking vessel near Kerkennah Island.
Earlier on Monday at least eight people drowned nearby when another boat carrying migrants collided with a Tunisian navy vessel.