Migrant boats sink in Mediterranean, English Channel

A baby was one of two victims after a boat carrying migrants and refugees capsized off Tunisia. A similar tragedy, off the northern French coast, left six Afghan nationals dead

The vessel, carrying 20 Tunisians, went down at 2:00 a.m. local time (Photo: DW)
The vessel, carrying 20 Tunisians, went down at 2:00 a.m. local time (Photo: DW)


At least two migrants including a baby died when their bank sank Saturday soon after leaving the coast of Tunisia, the coastguard said.

The vessel, carrying 20 Tunisians, went down at 2:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) when it was just 120 meters (395 feet) from the shoreline in the southeastern province of Gabes.

"Two bodies have been recovered, one of a 20-year-old man and the other of an infant," the coast guard said in a statement.

Thirteen others were rescued, including the baby's parents. Five passengers were missing and search operations were ongoing, the statement added.

A similar tragedy occurred off the Tunisian coast on Monday, when a boat carrying migrants sank near the eastern city of Sfax, leaving 11 people dead.

Sfax serves as a launching port for migrants from African countries to begin their risky sea journeys to Europe, via the Italian island ofLampedusa.

More than 1,800 people have died this year in shipwrecks on the central Mediterranean migration route, the world's deadliest — more than twice as many as last year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Migrant boat sinks in English Channel

Once the migrants reach southern Europe, they sometimes head for wealthier countries such as Germany and the UK. The migrants may also take a dangerous journey from France to Britain.

French maritime officials reported Saturday that a boat, overloaded with migrants and refugees, capsized in the English Channel, killing six people.

UK media reported that the victims were all Afghan nationals, who had been in critical condition when found and were later pronounced dead.

About 65 people were estimated to have boarded the boat for the UK and two people may still be lost at sea, the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.

The English Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes but at its narrowest point, separates France and Britain by just 20 miles (33 kilometers).

This year, the number of migrants plying the Channel has fallen about 15% to 15,826 as of Thursday, partly as a result of a joint UK-French monitoring operation along the coast. But since 2018, more than 100,000 migrants have crossed the sea in small boats.

Britain passed a new law earlier this year to try to stem the arrival of small boat migrants, which would deport those who arrive illegally back to their home country or a safe third country.

But plans to fly some people to Rwanda have been shot down by an appeals court and are now being appealed by the Supreme Court.

The passage of people trying to get into and around Europe is often facilitated by smugglers, who may take advantage of their desperation for a fee. The migrants are frequently put on overloaded, unseaworthy boats, which are prone to sinking, particularly in stormy conditions.

Hundreds of migrants saved by French charity

French NGO SOS Mediterranee said Friday that its Ocean Viking vessel saved over 600 migrants trapped at sea over the previous two days.

The rescue group said 623 people had been brought in on "unseaworthy small boats."

Among those rescued were nationals of countries such as Sudan, Guinea and Bangladesh.

Sudan in particular is witnessing armed conflict which has driven thousands of refugees out of the country.

The majority of the migrants were picked up by the ship on the sea route between Lampedusa and Sfax.

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Published: 13 Aug 2023, 8:15 AM