At least 12 African refugees and migrants remain missing and three have died after three boats sank off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, a judicial official has said, amidst a sharp rise in refugee boats from the North African country.
The coastguard rescued 152 others off the southern city of Sfax, Faouzi Masmoudi told Reuters news agency on Thursday.
Tunisia is a major North African stepping stone for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe at risk of their lives.
With refugees and migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, undertaking perilous sea crossings from Tunisia in unprecedented numbers, European authorities have been seeking reinforced action from Tunisia.
In the first three months of this year, Tunisian authorities intercepted 13,000 people on boats off Tunisia’s eastern port city of Sfax, a main route to Europe for sub-Saharan Africans, who don’t need visas to travel to Tunisia.
As well as working to reduce refugee flows from Tunisia, European authorities have offered aid to stabilize the North African country, which is in the midst of its deepest economic crisis in a generation.