Tunisia migrant shipwreck toll rises to 112

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Tunis, June 5 (IANS) The toll has risen to at least 112 people after a boat packed with migrants sank off the coast of Tunisia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said.

On Sunday, it was reported that at least 50 people had died after the capsized last Saturday.

Sixty-eight others — from Tunisia and elsewhere — were rescued by the coastguard. The country has become an important new route for migrants trying to make the crossing to Europe in the past year, BBC reported on Monday.

This comes after moves were made in neighbouring Libya against human traffickers, who have regularly enslaved, tortured or murdered migrants.

Of the 180 passengers aboard the boat, about 100 were Tunisian.

It was five miles from the Kerkennah Islands and 16 nautical miles from the city of Sfax, the interior ministry said.

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One survivor told Reuters news agency that the captain had abandoned the boat after it started sinking to escape arrest by the coastguard.

Each passenger on the fishing boat paid between $700-$1,170, an IOM spokesman said.

Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans often seek to cross the Mediterranean sea in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in Italy.

More than 32,000 people have reached Europe by sea so far this year, the IOM says, and 660 people have died attempting the crossing.

–IANS

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