Tunisia in Shock after Migrant Boat Disaster

Tunisia in Shock after Migrant Boat Disaster

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The Gaza Post|The News of Palestine-Tunis

Tunisia was left in shock on Monday over a migrant boat sinking off the Kerkenna Island that, according to latest figures, left 60 people dead.

The boat went down near the southern island of Kerkenna, overnight on Sunday. The victims were Tunisians as well as other nationalities, Tunisian authorities said.

“Among the 60 victims transferred to the forensic department at Habib Bourguiba hospital in Sfax, 48 are Tunisians … 12 are non-Tunisian the identifications are in progress”, Lorena Lando, chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tunisia.

Sixty-eight migrants were rescued from the sinking. They included 65 Tunisians, two Moroccans and one Libyan. Tunisian military forces are continuing their search for the missing.

In an attempt to ease the shock, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed chaired a ministerial meeting on Monday to follow up on the incident.

The meeting was attended by a number of military and security leaders. The prime minister ordered the formation of a crisis cell to contact and follow up with the families and survivors.

Judicial authorities, meanwhile, opened an investigation in the incident to uncover those responsible for the sinking. Eight Tunisians have been accused of being behind organizing trips for illegal migrant towards Italy’s southern coasts.

A survivor from Sunday’s sinking said there were 120 people on board the boat, majority of them Tunisians.

The organizer of the trip received 1,000 dinars (around USD400) for each illegal migrant, he said in a statement. They were being transported on board a vessel that could not hold more than 80 people.

The organizer had promised everyone that they would safely make it to Italy, he added. An hour after setting sail, the vessel encountered poor weather and high waves that led to the sinking.

Other survivors said the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coast guard.

In this regard, Masoud Ramadani, president of Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, told Asharq Al-Awsat that at least 15,000 Tunisians illegally entered Italy over the past year.

Italy’s newly installed interior minister Matteo Salvini said his country will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp”, as he promised tough action to reduce migrant arrivals and send back those who have already arrived.

Source:Asharq Al awsat

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