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‘Our Priority is to Save Lives’ Says Coast Guard Intercepting Migrants off Tunisia’s Coast

Tunisia’s eastern coast, notably the port city of Sfax, has become the main launching point for migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, to get to Italy and other parts of Europe in small boats.

The Tunisian National Coast Guards spent 24 hours at sea intercepting and rescuing an ever-increasing number of migrants. Mouh detailed the opération on Thursday (Aug. 10).

“Since the beginning of this month until now, in just ten days, the centre’s maritime sector has arrested around 3,000 migrants, 90% of whom are Sub-Saharan and the remaining 10% Tunisian.”

According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, boat crossings across the central Mediterranean is the main route for irregular migrant entries to Europe. This route is also the most dangerous, figures by the International Migration Organization show.

“Our first priority is to save human lives. There’s no doubt about that. You have seen that during these 24 hours we have carried out several rescue operations. There were three boats that broke down, whose passengers were rescued, and the rescue operations were not easy for us.”

Italy’s PM enlisted the EU’s help to forge a deal with Tunisia in a bid to stop the migrant boats in exchange for economic and other aid.

In the north African nation, tensions have risen between the local population and migrants, culminating last month with the forced expulsions of migrants.

Human rights organizations, Libyan authorities and migrants themselves have accused Tunisia of violating international law with the mass expulsions across its borders. 

Tunisia’s interior minister, Kamel Fekih, conceded on August 2nd that small groups of sub-Saharan migrants trying to enter the country are pushed back into the desert border areas with Libya and Algeria, but labelled as “false allegations” claims by the U.N., humanitarian groups and migrants themselves of mistreatment.

Source : Africa News