Four bodies found off Tunisia in apparent migrant boat accident

Pregnant woman among passengers believed to have set sail from Tunisia or neighbouring Libya

Captured migrant boats at the port of Sfax, Tunisia, in October. AFP
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Tunisian authorities have recovered the bodies of four people believed to be African migrants, including a pregnant woman, off the coast of Kerkennah Island in the Mediterranean.

The bodies were handed over to a hospital in the city of Sfax, regional prosecutor Faouzi Masmoudi told AP on Monday.

They were found early on Sunday and appeared to have drowned several days earlier, Mr Masmoudi said.

When asked about reports online that a newborn baby was among the dead, he said that only adult bodies had been found.

Tunisian authorities believe the people set sail from Tunisia or neighbouring Libya on a boat. The authorities are investigating what happened and seeking any information about other passengers.

Thousands of people are believed to have crossed from Tunisia into Europe this year. Many are fleeing conflict or poverty elsewhere in Africa.

But a growing number are Tunisians — young people or entire families — whose country is struggling with a protracted and worsening economic crisis and political tension.

Many die on the dangerous journey. The International Organisation for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project estimates about 2,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, most on the central Mediterranean route that includes Tunisia.

In October, Tunisia's coastguard recovered the bodies of 15 migrants that washed ashore on the coast of Mahdia.

In September, at least eight migrants died and another 15 were missing after a boat sank off Tunisia, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.

In April, four boats carrying 120 migrants heading to Italy capsized off Sfax, leaving at least 20 dead.

Updated: December 27, 2022, 8:27 AM