Bodies of 61 migrants recovered from shipwreck off Tunisia

Workers bury a dozen of migrants at the cemetery of Sfax after the sinking of their boat in front of the island of Kerkennah. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 June 2020

Bodies of 61 migrants recovered from shipwreck off Tunisia

  • The Tunisian Coast Guard said at least 22 women, one of them pregnant, and four children were among the dead
  • Authorities have launched an investigation, and believe that the death toll could be higher

ROME: The bodies of 61 African migrants have been recovered after a shipwreck occurred 10 days ago off the coast of Tunisia.
The Tunisian Coast Guard said at least 22 women, one of them pregnant, and four children were among the dead.
Tunisian authorities have launched an investigation, and believe that the death toll could be higher. The Coast Guard believes that the boat had left the city of Sfax, on Tunisia’s coast, aiming to reach Italy.
“We believe that the boat was too full … It has been a massacre,” a Coast Guard spokesman told Italian news agency ANSA.
In April, Italy and Malta declared their seaports “unsafe” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite that, more boats and dinghies carrying migrants have been reported trying to reach Italy.
Vincent Cochetel, special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said he fears that more migrants will try to make the crossing during the summer.
“Fifty-three percent of migrants and refugees lost their jobs during the COVID-19 restrictions in Tunisia,” he added.
“It is not clear how many will manage to get a job back or will face tougher competition with locals. Despair drives people to risk their lives and smugglers keep lying to them.”
As weather conditions improve, more boats have been departing from North Africa. Authorities in Lampedusa, an Italian island half way between Tunisia and Sicily, have reported more arrivals.
Many of those on board have been transferred by ferry to the Italian mainland to decrease pressure on the island.
According to the UNHCR, attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia increased by 150 percent from January to April this year compared with the same period in 2019.
“We can’t tolerate this massacre anymore. We must act now. Europe must act to stop tragedies like this,” Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Sicily’s capital Palermo, told Arab News.
“We can’t just sit looking at what happens in the Mediterranean. We simply can’t let those tragedies happen anymore.”
Italy’s government has repeatedly called for European cooperation in this regard. “Without a comprehensive European strategy on refugees and migrants, we will never stop this tragedy. Italy cannot be left alone,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told Avvenire daily newspaper.


UN chief: COVID-19 provides opportunity for Daesh, Al-Qaeda

Updated 45 min 46 sec ago

UN chief: COVID-19 provides opportunity for Daesh, Al-Qaeda

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic provides new opportunities for Daesh extremist group, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups.
The UN chief said it’s too early to fully assess the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on terrorism, but all these groups seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims.
Guterres told the launch of UN Counter-Terrorism Week that the Daesh group, which once controlled a vast swath of Syria and Iraq, is trying to reassert itself in both countries, “while thousands of foreign terrorist fighters battle in the region.”
“The pandemic has also highlighted vulnerabilities to new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyberattacks and bio-terrorism,” he said.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, told the virtual meeting that a global understanding of the pandemic’s implications on counter-terrorism efforts across the world is needed.
“It is true that, in some places, the crisis has led to a reduction of terrorist activity, mainly due to the mobilization of state security services,” he said. “But in other regions, terrorism and human suffering caused by it continue unabated.”
Former American diplomat Richard Haas, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believes COVID-19 “will add to the challenges of counter-terrorism.”
“It will perhaps create an environment where more countries become weak or fail,” he said, and recruitment for terrorist organizations will quite possibly go up.
With global attention focused on tackling the pandemic, Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Kais Kabtani said, terrorist groups are seeking to capitalize “by undermining state authority and launching new attacks.”