Death toll in migrant ship disaster off Tunisia coast rises to 61

A file photo shows Tunisian coast guards rescue African migrants stranded on a boat coming from Libya, near Sfax, on the Tunisian coast. (AFP)

The death toll from a ship packed with African migrants that sank off the Tunisian coast this week has risen to 61, a local official said on Saturday.

Dozens had set out on the vessel from Tunisia’s Kerkennah island the previous weekend aiming to reach Italy but local authorities have since Thursday buried the bodies of many of the would-be migrants following the incident.

The Coast Guard had recovered more bodies including a baby, raising the death toll to 61, Mourad Mechri, a civil protection official, said.

Illegal crossings from Tunisia to Europe jumped by more than 150 percent in January to April compared with the same period last year, AFP reported citing the UN’s refugee agency.

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Last year, 86 African migrants drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia having set off for Europe from Libya, in one of the worst such accidents Tunisian authorities have had to deal with.

Last Update: Sunday, 14 June 2020 KSA 00:03 - GMT 21:03