SFAX, Tunisia: The Tunisian coast guard recovered the body of a young child thought to have drowned at sea when two vessels carrying migrants sank in the Mediterranean, a journalist working with AFP said.
The child’s body, dressed in a pink jumpsuit and grey woollen cap, was discovered during a patrol off the coast of Sfax, Tunisia’s second city, according to the journalist who was accompanying the coast guard.
The child was likely from Cameroon, as more than 200 Cameroonians had been rescued in the last two days, the coast guard undertaking the operation said.
The child’s mother was believed to have been one of the people missing after the sinking of two boats earlier in the week, they added.
The Cameroonian Embassy in Tunis was nonetheless unable to confirm this information when contacted by AFP.
Local court spokesman Faouzi Masmoudi meanwhile said that two boats carrying migrants from sub-Saharan Africa sank off Sfax’s coast Wednesday.
Six people died and 39 were rescued from the first boat, while 12 people from the second boat were rescued and 41 others are missing, he said.
It was unknown which of the boats the child had been traveling on, Masmoudi added.
Tunisia, whose coastline is less than 150 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a favored launching point for migrants attempting the perilous sea journey from North Africa to Europe.
The flow of migrants from Tunisia has intensified since President Kais Saied made a fiery speech on Feb. 21 claiming illegal immigration was a demographic threat to Tunisia.
The country is in the grips of a long-running socio-economic crisis, with spiralling inflation and persistently high unemployment, pushing some of its citizens to seek a better life abroad.
On May 26, authorities announced the arrest of an alleged smuggler in Sfax, wanted in connection with the September deaths of 20 Tunisian migrants who drowned off the coast of Chebba.