Migrants stranded off Tunisia


A rescue boat carrying around 75 migrants, most from Bangladesh, has been stuck off Tunisia for 12 days after authorities refused to let them disembark, the Red Crescent said.

The Egyptian boat rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters, but authorities in the governorate of Medinine say its migrant centres are too overcrowded to allow them ashore, leaving the vessel 25 km from the coastal city Zarzis.

A government source said the migrants refused food and medical aid and were demanding they be allowed to cross into Europe – their likely target, hoping for a better life, when they set off.

Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said doctors reached the boat to provide some medical help, but others repeatedly refused aid.

“After 12 days at sea, the migrants are in a bad condition,” he told Reuters.

Among the group who set off from Libya, 64 are from Bangladesh and the rest from Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, the Red Crescent said.

Neighbouring Libya’s west coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe by paying human traffickers, though numbers dropped due to an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support for the Libyan coastguard.

At least 65 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Tunisia after they left Libya hoping to reach Europe.

In the first four months of 2019, 164 people are known to have died on the route, a smaller number but a higher death rate than in previous years, with one dying for every three who reach European shores, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.