At least 29 migrants trying to reach Italy died after two boats sank off the coast of Tunisia amid a deadly migration surge in the past week. Image courtesy of Google Maps
March 26 (UPI) -- At least 29 migrants trying to reach Italy died after two boats sank off the coast of Tunisia amid a deadly migration surge in the past week.
Romdhane Ben Amor, an official with the Forum for Social and Economic Rights human rights group, said in a statement that 19 people had drowned after a boat sank off the coast of Mahdia on Saturday evening.
"Difficult to count the number of victims and missing during this tragic week," Ben Amor said, adding "God bless the victims."
Another 10 people are reported to have died after a second boat sank within hours of that one, according to Al-Jazeera. At least five boats have sunk off the Tunisian coast in the last four days.
According to Ben Amor, 38 migrants died after a boat sank off the coast of Al-Louza on Wednesday.
More than 2,000 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within a 24-hour period, officials said Saturday, setting a new record for arrivals at the well-known destination point
An Italian official said 1,778 people arrived on the island Friday with another 267 people coming Saturday. Lampedusa is a common landing place for migrants seeking to enter the European Union.
The number of migrants arriving to Italy has more than tripled in the first two months of 2023.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has blamed the rising figure on an unstable political situation in Tunisia, which is approximately 200 miles to the west across the Mediterranean Sea.
"900,000 people will arrive in Italy that Italy cannot welcome," Meloni told the European Council this week while asking for collaboration with European partners to accept migrants and help block departures from Turkey, Libya and Tunisia.
Charities rescued many of the boats on Saturday but under new rules from Italy's government, those NGO's can face fines for breaking a code of conduct.