39 migrants heading for Europe drown off Tunisian coast

At least 39 migrants drowned off Tunisia when two boats capsized on Tuesday, the defence ministry said, as numbers risking the dangerous crossing to Europe continue to rise.

Rescuers pulled 165 survivors from the floundering boats out of the sea to safety.

It was not immediately clear what caused both boats to capsize, but vessels leaving the North African coast for Europe are often heavily overloaded makeshift crafts, departing at night even in rough weather to avoid detection from the coastguard.

Tunisian National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said the“search is still on for survivors and bodies”.

The defence ministry said 39 bodies had been retrieved so far, with children among the dead, but no further details were given.

The boats left shore overnight carrying mainly migrants from sub-Saharan Africa dreaming of reaching Europe, but they were spotted by the coastguard off the Tunisian port of Sfax, according to the authorities.

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