Tunisia rescues 140 migrants off its coast

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by a patrol vessel of the Tunisia Navy, seen from the migrant search and rescue vessel MV Seefuchs of the German NGO Sea-Eye in the search and rescue zone south of the Al Jurf Oilfield in international waters off the coast of Libya, on September 30, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 02 October 2017

Tunisia rescues 140 migrants off its coast

TUNIS/THESSALONIKI: The Tunisian navy rescued 98 Tunisians fleeing to Europe when their boat started to sink off Kerkenah on the southeast coast late on Saturday, the national guard said.
Separately, the army said it had arrested 43 illegal migrants rescued from four boats off Zarzis, also on the southeast coast.
Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress after a 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali but successive governments have failed to create jobs for young people, some of whom head illegally to Europe to seek work.
Tunisia arrested about 550 Tunisian and African migrants trying to sail to Europe in September, against only 170 in August, official data showed on Thursday.
Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading for Europe as Libya's coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
"The water leaked to a boat carrying 98 migrants, when it was sinking, but the naval guard rescued them off the coast of Kerkenah," Col. Maj. Khelifa Chibani of Tunisia's national guard said.
Migrants’ smugglers held
Greek police said they have arrested eight migrant traffickers who reportedly smuggled 38 migrants through Greece's land border with Turkey.
All the arrests were made Friday, in northern Greece, in four separate incidents.
The largest group of migrants — 10 from Vietnam, two from Iraq and two from Pakistan — was smuggled by two Moldovans and a Romanian. The migrants were stashed in one car while two other traffickers drove another vehicle, checking for police roadblocks, police say.
Ten Syrians and Somalis smuggled in by a Bulgarian driver told police they paid €2,400 ($2,836) each to be taken into central Europe. Another seven Iraqis, five Afghanis and two Pakistanis were also smuggled in by traffickers.
Similar incidents occur almost daily, police say.


Turkey sends armed drone to N.Cyprus amid gas dispute

Updated 3 min 38 sec ago

Turkey sends armed drone to N.Cyprus amid gas dispute

  • The breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles
  • A recent agreement between Turkey and Libya claims extensive areas of sea for Turkey in the Mediterranean

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus: A Turkish military drone was delivered to northern Cyprus on Monday amid growing tensions over Turkey’s deal with Libya that extended its claims to the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The Bayraktar TB2 drone landed in Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta around 0700 GMT, an AFP correspondent said, after the breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles.
It followed a deal signed last month between Libya and Turkey that could prove crucial in the scramble for recently discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
The agreement claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which runs the southern part of the island.
Analysts say Turkey was pushing back against rival efforts to claim exploration rights in the area after Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel excluded Turkey from a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” that also includes Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey, said approval for the drone was given last week “in light of the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean region” and “to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the TRNC and Turkey.”
The TRNC’s transport minister, Tolga Atakan, said Turkish drones were partly a response to the acquisition of Israeli drones by Cyprus in October to monitor its exclusive economic zone.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
Turkey already has two drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean despite the threat of European Union sanctions.
Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and says the TRNC has the right to explore around the entire island.