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2 people are dead, 20 missing, as a migrant boat sinks off the coast of Tunisia

A picture provided by German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch shows a boat in distress with some 400 people on board in the central Mediterranean Sea on Sunday.
Giacomo Zorzi
/
AP
A picture provided by German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch shows a boat in distress with some 400 people on board in the central Mediterranean Sea on Sunday.

Updated April 10, 2023 at 3:18 PM ET

ROME — At least two migrants have died and about 20 others are missing after their boat sank over the weekend in the Mediterranean Sea between Tunisia and Italy, German aid group ResQship said on Monday. Meanwhile, Italian authorities said operations were under way to rescue about 1,200 people on two migrant ships intercepted off the country's shores.

ResQship said its rescuers reached the area of the wreck on Saturday and found about 25 people in the water, who said they had been there for two hours.

"Our crew was able to recover 22 survivors and 2 deceased," the aid group tweeted, adding that survivors said about 20 people drowned. The group's ship, the Naditook the rescued migrants to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

"We are angry. This is an unspeakable tragedy that could — and should — have been prevented by a humanitarian approach to migration instead of barb-wiring the European borders," ResQship said.

The Italian coast guard said Monday it was completing operations to rescue 800 migrants on a ship intercepted around 193 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of the Sicilian town of Syracuse.

The coast guard also said Monday that another boat with about 400 migrants on board has been intercepted around 273 kilometers (170 miles) off the Calabrian coast. It said the migrants were being taken off the boat onto a coast guard vessel and two merchant ships.

On Sunday night, humanitarian organization Alarm Phone had received a distress call from that migrants' boat, which had departed from Tobruk, Libya.

The organization said the 400 migrants managed to continue their journey and reached the shared search and rescue zone of Malta and Italy.

In the last few days, thousands of migrants have reached tiny Lampedusa, which lies about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Tunisian coast.

According to Interior Ministry figures, more than 28,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of the year — almost four times the number over the same period in 2022.

However, that's much fewer than the hundreds of thousands who were rescued at sea a few years earlier.

Since it came to power six months ago, Giorgia Meloni's right-wing coalition government, which includes anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini, has cracked down on humanitarian rescue boats operating in the central Mediterranean north of Libya.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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