Three dead and dozens missing after migrant boat sinks

The boat reportedly sank off the coast of Tunisia near the city of Sfax

The boat reportedly sank off the coast of Tunisia near the city of Sfax

At least 70 migrants drowned and 16 were rescued after their boat capsized near the Kerkennah Islands off Tunisia's eastern coast on Friday, according to the country's state-run Tunis Afrique Presse agency (TAP).

The official said between 60 and 70 people drowned.

A statement from the Tunisian defence ministry reportedly said the navy had despatched a ship as soon as it heard about the incident and came across a fishing boat picking up survivors.

The bodies of three victims have been found, while dozens of others are missing, said Tunisian authorities.

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UNHCR said the sunken boat had taken to the sea on Thursday from neighbouring Libya, where renewed warfare between rival factions has gripped the capital Tripoli in the past five weeks. She said the migrants included people from Bangladesh and Morocco, among other nationalities. It said 443 people have reportedly died on unsafe Mediterranean Sea crossings so far this year, compared to 620 deaths for the same period in 2018.

According to Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiène Zaag, the boat from Libya was trying to illegally reach Italy, with about 75 migrants on board.

According to IOM figures, 443 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year. It said they were handed over to Libyan police after having received humanitarian and medical aid. The U.N. health agency says 443 people have died, 2,110 have been wounded and almost 60,000 have been displaced by the violence. Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.

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