By AFP News Tunisia…..
Rescuers found 39 bodies off the Tunisia coast after two boats sank.
Rescuers pulled 165 survivors from the foundering boats to safety on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear what caused both boats to capsize, but vessels leaving the north African coast for Europe are often heavily overloaded makeshift crafts, departing at night even in rough weather to avoid detection from the coastguard.
The defence ministry said 39 bodies had been retrieved, while Tunisian National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said at least nine women and four children had died.
The boats left shore overnight carrying mainly migrants from sub-Saharan Africa aiming to reach Europe, but they were spotted by the coastguard off the Tunisian port of Sfax, according to the authorities.
Such vessels have continued to take to the sea almost daily this year, despite frequent poor weather.
“Departures have continued to rise,” said Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.
Since the beginning of 2021, 94 migrant boats have been intercepted, according to a count kept by his organisation, against 47 in the same period in 2020.
Meanwhile, 1,736 people have been arrested for attempting the crossing, around double the number in the same period last year.
The figures are more than double those from the same period last year.
Among illegal arrivals in Italy during 2020, Tunisian citizens constituted the biggest national contingent, numbering 12,000, UNHCR said.
But many foreign nationals have also used Tunisia as a jumping off point for Europe.
Since the start of 2021, over half of migrants arrested in waters off Tunisia were from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.
Tunisia had been struck by an economic crisis and high unemployment even before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Job losses, precarious conditions that have hit Tunisians have hit foreign migrant communities even harder; many have lost their jobs,” said Matt Herbert from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
“For some migrants based in Tunisia, migrating to Europe is a decision they already have at the back of their mind.”
According to the UN, at least 252 migrants have died in the Mediterranean since 1 January, and around 1,200 perished last year