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43 migrants drown while trying to cross Mediterranean

By The Hill
On 5 July 2021 at 09:00

An estimated 43 migrants drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, according to the Tunisian division of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Tunisian Red Crescent told The Associated Press and Reuters that about 127 migrants had left the coast of Libya via boat Friday in an attempt to reach Italy.

Mongi Slim, the head of the Tunisian wing of the global humanitarian aid organization, said that among the group of migrants were 46 people from Sudan, 16 Eritreans and 12 Bengalis, according to the AP.

While Tunisian Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri said that local fishermen rescued 84 of the migrants, he did not confirm the death toll reported by the Red Crescent.

The incident comes as international officials and human rights organizations have called on countries to do more to ensure the safety of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, many of whom depart from Libya.

A surge in attempted crossings has been reported in the past few weeks as more migrants from North Africa and the Middle East look to make the dangerous voyage amid the warmer weather during the summer months.

In the coastal city of Zarzis, Tunisia, a “Garden of Africa” was recently constructed to serve as a “burial ground” for hundreds of unknown men, women and children whose have bodies washed up on the country’s shores in recent years.

Those buried at the grave site include seven bodies that were found on an island off the southern coast of Tunisia last week.

In May, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Libya’s government and the European Union to take more action to protect migrants.

“Every year, people drown because help comes too late, or never comes at all,” Bachelet said at the time. “Those who are rescued are sometimes forced to wait for days or weeks to be safely disembarked or, as has increasingly been the case, are returned to Libya which, as has been stressed on countless occasions, is not a safe harbour due to the cycle of violence.”

Tensions and fighting in Libya have continued to escalate since a NATO-backed uprising removed former leader Moammar Gadhafi a decade ago.

Richard Norland, the U.S. special envoy for Libya, said last month that Washington was in talks to withdraw foreign forces from the North African country before its December elections.


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