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At least 13 dead and 25 rescued after another boat sinks off Tunisia

The incident comes just four days after another boat carrying migrants sank en route to Italy
People from sub-Saharan Africa sit in a makeshift boat on its way towards the Italian coast, as they are intercepted by Tunisian authorities off the coast of Sfax, Tunisia, on 4 October 2022 (AFP)

The Tunisian coastguard reported recovering the bodies of 13 sub-Saharan African migrants and rescuing 25 others on Thursday, following the sinking of a boat on its way to Italy.

The coastguard reported that the incident took place off the coast of the city of Sfax, though they did not specify the boat's distance from the shore at the time of the sinking.

The number of people dead or missing due to boat sinkings off the Tunisian coast has reached 608, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights said on Saturday. The country's coastguard had foiled 33,000 people from attempting to board boats, the rights group added, without specifying a time period for those interventions.

Amid multiple overlapping crises in Tunisia, the North African country has become a primary departure point for migrants crossing to Europe.

Each day, hundreds of Tunisian and sub-Saharan Africans embark on their journey from Tunisia.

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Just last week, at least 10 people were missing and one died after a boat attempting to reach Italy sank off the coast of Tunisia.

Tunisia's coastguard rescued 11 people from the boat, which capsized off the coast of the southeastern town of Zarzis.

Tunisia becomes a hub for people crossing to Europe
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Tunisia has been engulfed in a deepening political crisis since July 2021, when President Kais Saied unilaterally suspended parliament and dissolved the government.

After the power grab, the plans for which were first revealed by Middle East Eye, Saied decided to rule by decree, a move his opponents decried as a "constitutional coup".

Tunisia's economy is in a state of collapse, burdened by rampant inflation and a scarcity of essential goods. This crisis has been further intensified by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Last month, the European Union said it may loan Tunisia over €1bn ($1.07bn) to help develop its battered economy, rescue state finances and deal with the migration crisis, with most of the funds contingent on it agreeing to painful economic reforms.

The offer was announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a visit to Tunisia, who also said the EU would this year provide Tunisia with €100m for border management, search and rescue, anti-smuggling operations and returns that are "rooted in respect for human rights".

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