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At least 41 die after boat carrying African migrants to Europe sinks off Tunisia

At least 41 people, including a child, have died after a boat carrying African migrants to Europe sank off Tunisia.

UN refugee agency and International Organization for Migration disclosed this in a joint statement on Friday stating that “three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard” following Thursday’s boat sinking.

“The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved,” the statement said.

Earlier, Ali Ayari, spokesman for the Tunisian coast guard in the eastern city of Sfax, had put the death toll at 20.

Ayari said the bodies of 11 men, eight women and a child were retrieved. Seventeen other people were missing.

Search operations, halted due to bad weather, would continue on Saturday, he added.

The joint UNHCR-IOM statement said all those who perished were from sub-Saharan Africa.

“This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand state-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year,” it added.

“Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.”

The central Mediterranean is the deadliest route for would-be migrants to Europe, who usually board makeshift vessels for the crossing.

“So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020,” the UNHCR-IOM statement said.

At least 1,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, most of them crossing the central part of the sea, according to the United Nations.

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