One of the two boats with a total of 415 migrants board is shown in Lampedusa, Italy, in May. Another such boat sank off the coast of Tunisia Saturday, killing more than 40 passengers. File photo by Ansa/EPA-EFE
July 3 (UPI) -- At least 43 migrants crossing to Italy from Libya drowned in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea off Tunisia, international aid officials said Saturday.
The Tunisian Red Crescent said boat, which carried more than 120 migrants, tried crossing the Mediterranean and sank off the coast of Zarzis, the Tunisian press agency TAP reported.
It departed the port of Zuwara between Monday and Tuesday, survivors told the aid workers. The migrants were from Egypt, Eritrea, Chad, Bangladesh and Sudan.
"The navy rescued 84 migrants and 43 others drowned in a boat that set off from Libya's Zuwara towards Europe," Red Crescent official Mongi Slim said in a statement issued to Britain's Sky News.
The numbers of illegal migrants arriving in Italy via the so-called "central Mediterranean" route has surged so far this year after falling off in recently.
As of late April, more than 500 migrants had drowned in the Mediterranean during 2021, according to the United Nations -- almost three times as many the same period last year.
One of the most frequent destinations for migrants is the island of Lampedusa. On Saturday, 215 migrants on six boats came ashore, some of them after being rescued by the Italian Coast Guard, the Rome newspaper Corriere della Serra reported.
Pope Francis this month called the Mediterranean the "largest cemetery in Europe" in describing the plight of immigrants desperate to flee wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.