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More bodies found in Tunisia migrant ship sinking

Published: July 15, 2019
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Update at 15.30 BST: The number of bodies recovered by Tunisia after a ship packed with migrants sank off its coast last week has risen to 82.

More bodies were found from a ship packed with migrants that sank off the Tunisian coast last week, bringing the official death toll to 72 in a disaster feared to have killed more than 80 people, the Tunisian Red Crescent said on Friday.

The boat capsized after setting off for Europe from neighboring Libya. Four survivors have been rescued, who told Tunisian coast guards the ship was carrying around 85 people.

Libya’s west coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe, though numbers have dropped due to an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan Coast Guard.

The International Organisation for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project estimates 682 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far in 2019.

Thousands of migrants have died in each of the past several years making the journey, although the numbers this year have so far been lower due in part to European-backed efforts to halt people smuggling from Libya.

Although the fighting in Libya has made the situation more difficult for people-smugglers, international aid officials have warned it could also prompt more Libyans to flee their country.

Libyans who are picked up by the Libyan Coast Guard are routinely brought back to Libya and detained. The United Nations has pleaded with Libya’s government to free the detainees, some of whom have been locked up for years.

In May, 108 migrants and refugees were sent to the Tajoura detention centre near Tripoli, which was hit by air strikes on Tuesday night that killed at least 53 people.

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