Tunisia said its coastguards Saturday rescued 28 mostly sub-Saharan Africa migrants, including a baby, from a boat headed for Europe that broke down off the Kerkennah islands.
The defense ministry said the 25 sub-Saharan Africans and three Tunisians, who had set off on Thursday night, were handed over to authorities at the port of Sfax. Among them was a nine-month-old baby, the ministry added.
The number of would-be migrants trying to cross to Europe from Tunisia has been on the rise since 2017, largely driven for Tunisians by economic woes in their country, almost a decade after a revolution that many had hoped would bring more significant change.
Between the start of 2020 and mid-September, more than 8,580 people have been intercepted trying to reach Europe by sea from Tunisia, including 2,104 non-Tunisians, according to interior ministry figures.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin held talks Friday with Tunisia’s leaders on repatriating Tunisians convicted on terrorism charges or suspected of holding extremist inclinations.
Darmanin’s visit to Tunis was scheduled some time ago but it took on new urgency following the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice, in an attack allegedly perpetrated by a Tunisian national.
Italy in August announced the start of operations to repatriate Tunisian migrants, saying it could no longer cope with the high numbers of illegal arrivals on its shores.