At least 60 dead after Tunisian migrant ship sinks: IOM

World       by Usman Arshad | Published

Tunisian authorities, which on Sunday said they had recovered 48 bodies, provided no new figures but said the coast guard was still searching for dozens of missing migrants.

Relatives carry a coffin containing the body of an immigrant who drowned when a boat sank, at a hospital morgue in Sfax, Tunisia June 4, 2018.

The death toll from the shipwreck is likely to be over 100 as some 60 of the boat's passengers are still missing at sea and presumed dead, UNHCR said.

The shipwreck is the deadliest in the Mediterranean since February 2, when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration. "12 are non-Tunisian, the identifications are in progress", Lorena Lando, chief of mission of the IOM in Tunisia said in a statement late on Monday.

Tunisia's inside minister has fired 10 safety officers amid an investigation into the sinking of a ship carrying migrants making an attempt to succeed in Europe that left an estimated 112 lifeless or lacking.

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"That's why UNHCR is advocating for safe routes for refugees to travel so that these unnecessary deaths don't take place".

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Spokesman William Spindler tells NPR at least 52 people have died. In 2017, UNHCR supported the voluntary repatriation of five refugees, the resettlement of seven families (21 individuals) and the naturalization of seven cases.

This year up to May 2, a total of 1,910 Tunisian migrants reached Italy, including 39 women and 307 minors - 293 of whom were unaccompanied - compared to only 231 for the same period in 2017, according to the United Nations migrant agency IOM.

So far, the crossing of more than 900 illegal immigrants in the Tunisian maritime borders has been prevented since the beginning of this year's Ramadan, on May 17, according to the Interior Ministry of the African country. The North African country's economy is in crisis since the toppling of autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 threw Tunisia into turmoil with unemployment and inflation soaring.

Police had deployed across the islands ahead of an anticipated visit later on Tuesday by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

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