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At Least 16 People Killed in Refugee Shipwrecks Off North Africa

At least 16 people have died in shipwrecks off Tunisia and Western Sahara as North Africa faces a spike in Europe-bound sea crossings. Tunisia in particular has become a major gateway for refugees, primarily from other parts of Africa, attempting perilous voyages in the hopes of a better life. The death toll from a shipwreck on Sunday off Tunisia rose to 11 after more bodies were found.

“Seven new bodies have been recovered on Sunday evening,” said Faouzi Masmoudi, spokesman for the court in Sfax, Tunisia’s second largest city, which is near the site of the sinking that took place over the weekend in the Mediterranean Sea.

Two people have been rescued out of the 57 on board, all from sub-Saharan African countries, Masmoudi said, adding that authorities continued to search for the missing.

Survivors of the latest reported sinking, near Tunisia’s Kerkennah Islands in the Mediterranean, said their makeshift boat had departed over the weekend from a beach north of Sfax with 57 people on board. The distance between Sfax and the Italian island of Lampedusa is about 130km (80 miles).

In a separate incident, authorities in Morocco on Monday said the bodies of five people, all from Senegal, were recovered and 189 people were rescued after a boat capsized off Western Sahara.

Eleven people in critical condition were transferred to a hospital in Dakhla, the disputed Western Sahara’s second largest city, a military source told Moroccan state media.

According to the source, the boat had embarked from “a country located south of the kingdom [of Morocco]” and was headed towards Spain’s Canary Islands before being discovered off the coast of Guerguart, just north of Mauritania.

Source: Aljazeera