Fourteen migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have drowned off the coast of the Tunisian city of Sfax, the national coastguard said on Thursday.
“Coastguard patrols last night intercepted a group whose boat had sunk, rescuing 54 people of various sub-Saharan African nationalities and recovering 14 bodies," it said in a statement.
Separately, the coastguard said it foiled 14 attempts to cross Tunisia's maritime border and rescued 435 people, including nine Tunisians, on Wednesday night.
Parts of the Tunisian coastline lie fewer than 150km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, making the country a favoured departure point for migrants aiming to embark on the dangerous sea crossing.
More than 23,500 people of various nationalities were intercepted off Tunisia between January and September last year, according to the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES) group, which tracks migration issues.
More than 500 died or disappeared at sea during the same period, it said.