A boat carrying 40 African migrants has been left stranded off the coast of Tunisia without aid for 11 days after it was denied from docking on Tunisian shores.
Tunisian authorities on land have been arguing for days that Malta or Italy should accept the migrants, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Monji Slim, told Reuters on Monday.
“The African migrants at sea are in a bad condition after the vessel’s captain refused to receive aid to pressure the Tunisian authorities to receive them, but no solution has been reached after 11 days at sea,” Slim told Reuters.
It is unclear what specific countries the migrants originally came from before being picked up by the Tunisian vessel, and they are currently stranded about 12 miles offshore.
Four humanitarian groups called on Tunisia to accept the migrants, and the boat was left waiting in limbo until the Tunisian government responded, the Associated Press reported July 19.
Tunisia was deciding whether or not to allow them to dock after Malta, Italy and France refused.
Tunisia’s coast saw one of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years when at least 100 migrants died or went missing when their boat sank by the southern island of Kerkenna, officials said June 3.
The death toll of immigrants traveling through the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Europe, in an apparent rush to get to Europe before their proposed immigration policies kick in, surpassed 1,000 so far in 2018 in the first week of July. (RELATED: Death Toll Surpasses 1,000 For Immigrants Trying To Cross Mediterranean)
“Smugglers are exploiting the desperation of migrants to leave before there are further crackdowns on Mediterranean crossings by Europe,” the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi said in a statement on July 1.
While Italy has closed its ports to most charity ships in the Mediterranean, insisting the European Union must share the burden, Italy’s foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Monday the country will allow migrants rescued by an EU joint naval operation to dock at its ports over the next couple of weeks.
Operation Sophia, as it’s called, is an EU military operation meant to combat smuggling, human trafficking and prevent loss of life in the Mediterranean. Italy is apparently accepting migrants on its shores in an effort to renegotiate the policies of the operation, the Associated Press reported.
More than 3,100 immigrants died in 2017 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. The IOM claimed at the time that the Mediterranean is “by far the world’s deadliest border,” with more than 33,000 immigrants dying at sea trying to enter Europe since 2000.
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