Tunisia rescues 267 migrants stranded at sea

Tunisia rescues 267 migrants stranded at sea
3 min read
24 June, 2021
Hundreds of migrants who were stranded at sea after their boat broke down have been rescued by authorities in Tunisia.
Thousands of migrants have died attempting to cross into Europe [Getty]

Tunisia authorities on Thursday rescued 267 migrants, most of them Bangladeshis, who tried to sail from neighbouring Libya to Europe across the Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migration said.

Tunisia's coastguard said the migrants, who also included three Egyptians, had been stranded at sea after their boat broke down.

The navy helped bring the migrants to shore at the Ben Guerdane port in southern Tunisia, near the border with Libya, and they were handed over to the IOM and the Red Crescent, the coastguard said.

The migrants were placed in quarantine at a hotel on the Tunisian island of Djerba, the IOM said.

According to IOM figures, more than 1,000 migrants hoping to reach Europe had set off from Libya and ended up in Tunisia since January, and the number of departures is rising.

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There have been 11,000 departures from January to April 2021 from Libya, over 70 percent more than in the same period last year, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The agency said the "deteriorating" conditions of migrants in Libya and Tunisia are pushing many to make the dangerous crossing from the North African coast to Europe.

Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said centres set up to house migrants in Tunisia are full.

According to the UN, at least 760 people have died making the Mediterranean crossing between January 1 and May 31, compared with 1,400 last year.

MSF withdraws from Libya

Medical rights group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pulled out Libya this week amid mounting fears of the worsening situation in the country.

Following an uptick in repeated incidents of violence towards refugees and migrants held in two detention centres in Tripoli, MSF has suspended its activities in Mabani and Abu Salim detention centres.

"This is not an easy decision to make, as it means we won’t be present in detention centres where we know people are suffering on a daily basis," said Beatrice Lau, MSF head of mission in Libya.

"However, the persistent pattern of violent incidents and serious harm to refugees and migrants, as well as the risk to the safety of our staff, has reached a level that we are no longer able to accept," Lau said.

"Until the violence stops, and conditions improve, MSF can no longer provide humanitarian and medical care in these facilities."

Reports of ill-treatment, physical abuse and violence against people held in these detention centres has been increasing since February, and "in the space of just one week, MSF teams witnessed first-had, and received at least three reports of, violence incidents resulting in severe physical and psychological harm", the group said.

The increase in violence since the beginning of 2021 goes together with the simultaneous significant rise in the number of refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers intercepted at sea by the EU-funded Libyan coastguard, forcibly returned to Libya and locked in detention centres.