Europe-bound migrants drown off Tunisia

Two women from Niger survive and are rescued by authorities off Tunisian port

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by a patrol vessel of the Tunisia Navy, seen from the migrant search and rescue vessel MV Seefuchs of the German NGO Sea-Eye in the search and rescue zone south of the Al Jurf Oilfield in international waters off the coast of Libya, September 30, 2017.    REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
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At least 17 migrants drowned as a boat sank off Tunisia, the International Organisation for Migration said on Thursday, quoting two survivors who were rescued near an oil platform.

The IOM said the boat left on Tuesday from the port of Zwara in Libya, a key gateway for Europe-bound migrants mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.

Two women from Niger survived and were rescued by authorities off the Tunisian port of Sfax and taken to hospital, the IOM said.

It said more than 500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean from the shores of North Africa to Italy and Malta since the start of 2021.

So far this year, about 13,000 migrants have landed in Italy, up from about 4,200 in the same period of 2020 and and 1,100 in 2019.

On Tuesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said during a visit to Portugal that his country was opposed to setting up centres to take in migrants trying to cross to Europe.

Mr Mechichi said Tunisia, which is dealing with social and political crises, "is not ready at all to accept citizens of other countries".

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