The UNHCR reported yesterday that UNHCR staff interviewed the sole survivor of a migrant boat that departed from Tripoli for Italy in late June with 55 people on board. The survivor was interviewed in Zarzis, Tunisia. “According to the survivor, there was no water on board and people started to die of dehydration within days. Many drank sea water, including the man who survived. He was rescued [off the coast of Tunisia] floating on the remains of the [inflatable] boat and a jerry can. According to the survivor over half of the deceased were from Eritrea, including three of his relatives.” According to the UNHCR press statement “[s]o far in 2012, over 1,300 people have arrived by boat from Libya in Italy. A boat, reportedly carrying 50 Eritreans and Somalis, is currently at sea. They refused to be rescued by Maltese military forces [on 9 July]. Over 1,000 people on 14 boats have arrived in Malta from Libya so far this year. Two other boats were intercepted by Maltese authorities, but the majority elected not to be rescued and continued to Italy. UNHCR Italy estimates that so far this year some 170 people have been declared dead or lost at sea attempting to make the journey from Libya to Europe.”
Click here for UNHCR press statement.
While irregular departures from Tunisia have been significantly reduced in number since Tunisian authorities resumed efforts to prevent or discourage such departures, bodies from earlier departures and accidents continue to wash ashore. The Financial Times reports that “62 bodies [were] found [during the first week of May] near Sfax, Kerkennah and Chaffar, up the coastline from Zarzis, apparently from boats lost weeks earlier.” 58 bodies were discovered during the month of April. FT also reported that “[u]nder the previous regime, would-be illegal migrants risked a fortnight in jail for ‘infringement of frontiers’; now there are no penalties imposed on those who attempted the illegal crossing.”
Click here for FT article (free access, but registration may be required).
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Over 4000 migrants have now arrived in Italy from Tunisia. The Italian government has declared a humanitarian emergency. Tunisian security forces have reportedly secured the Tunisian port of Zarzis from which many of the migrant boats have departed, but it is not clear whether this and other efforts that are being taken by the new Tunisian government will have an immediate effect on the flow of migrants.
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