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Tunisian navy rescues over 170 migrants at sea crossing from Libya to Europe

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Tunisia’s defense ministry said Sunday that its navy had rescued 178 migrants who were trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to reach Europe.

Two bodies were recovered and 178 migrants rescued during three operations off Tunisia’s south coast, a ministry statement said.

The migrants, who the ministry said were from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mali and Ethiopia, had set off from the Libyan port of Zuwara overnight Friday to Saturday.

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Tunisian authorities on Thursday intercepted 267 would-be migrants who had also begun the sea crossing from Libya, most of them Bangladeshis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Red Crescent official Mongi Slim warned Thursday that centers set up to house migrants in southern Tunisia were full.

According to IOM figures, more than 1,000 migrants hoping to reach Europe had set off from Libya and ended up in Tunisia since January, and the number of departures is rising.

There have been 11,000 departures from January to April 2021 from Libya, over 70 percent more than in the same period last year, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The agency said the “deteriorating” conditions of migrants in Libya were pushing many to make the dangerous crossing from the North African coast to Europe.

According to the UN, at least 760 people have died trying to make the Mediterranean crossing between January 1 and May 31.