At Least Nine Migrants Drown Off Tunisia in Shipwreck

Migrants on an overcrowded wooden boat reach out for life jackets being distributed by a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) crew member from the German NGO migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 during a rescue operation in international waters off the coast of Tunisia, in the western Mediterranean Sea, August 1, 2021. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

At least nine African migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy on Monday, while another nine were rescued by the navy, the defence ministry said.

In recent months, several people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings to Europe from Tunisia and Libya towards Italy.

"Navy units backed by the Coast Guard recovered the bodies of nine migrants from different African countries and rescued nine other migrants, after their boat sank 18 km ... off Chebba, Mahdia Governorate," the ministry said.

It added that the health condition of the survivors is critical.

The search was still underway for more possible drowned.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

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