At least eight migrants have drowned after their boat sank following a crash with a Tunisian navy vessel in the Mediterranean, the defence ministry said Monday.
Spokesman Belhassen Oueslati told AFP that eight bodies were found and 38 people rescued after the unidentified boat “collided with a military vessel” Sunday evening when it was approached some 54 kilometers off the islands of Kerkennah.
Search operations to find any more missing people were “still ongoing”, he said.
Several Italian media outlets reported that there were some 70 migrants on board the boat which sank and that it had set off from the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax.
The collision happened in a stretch of sea that is meant to be patrolled by search and rescue crews from Malta.
The Maltese coastguard told AFP that it had been informed of a crash between two vessels and had sent help, but did not give any more details.
There has been an uptick since the summer in the number of migrants trying to make the perilous sea crossing to Europe from Tunisia, with small vessels heading to the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa.