Tunisia rescues 86 African migrants on Italy-bound boat
The Tunisian military rescued 86 African migrants at sea off the town of Zarzis aboard a makeshift boat bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa, an official said yesterday.
The group was fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Libya, from the port of Zuwarah about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from Tunisia, when their vessel started taking water on Tuesday afternoon, the Tunisian coastguard official said.
They sent out a distress signal that was picked up by the Tunisian military, triggering the rescue effort in which all of the would-be migrants were saved, the official told AFP.
It came as the Italian coastguard said at least 10 people died and scores were rescued on Tuesday when a boat transporting migrants capsized off Sicily.
For years, Libya has been a major embarkation point for hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly Africans, heading for Europe.
They risk their lives on often unseaworthy craft trying to make it to Malta or to Lampedusa, and hundreds are lost each year.
In January and February, about 7,900 migrants arrived on the Italian coast, an increase of more than 43 percent over the same period last year.
The UN refugee agency said at least 3,500 people died last year out of more than 218,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean, making it the most deadly migrant route in the world.