Tunis – Tunisian coastguards have rescued 48 illegal migrants trying to reach Europe from neighbouring Libya in a makeshift boat, the North African country’s Red Crescent said on Saturday.
Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said the migrants – among them 15 from Mali, 15 Syrians and four Egyptians – were intercepted and rescued off Zarzis when their boat broke down.
Libya, which plunged into civil war following the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has become a major route for migrants seeking to reach Europe to escape poverty and conflict.
The rescued migrants were taken to El Ketef port before being transferred to International Organization for Migration (IOM) premises, Slim said.
A separate Tunisian defence ministry statement said the navy had rescued 28 migrants aged between 14 and 33 off Zarzis on Thursday. They had also departed from Libya.
The IOM says that 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014 while trying to reach Europe — including nearly 1,700 this year.
On Tuesday the IOM said at least 160 migrants drowned off Libya’s coast after their boats sank over the previous week.
The Italian island of Lampedusa is located just 140km (less than 90 miles) from Tunisian shores.
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