At least 29 sub-Saharan African migrants died when their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, sources said Sunday.

In the past four days, five migrant boats have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead, after a significant increase in the number of boats bound for Italy.

The Tunisian coast guard rescued five people from a boat off the coast of Mahdia after a journey that started from the beaches of Sfax, Romadan ben Omar, spokesman for the Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), told Reuters.

Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The Coast Guard said it had stopped about 80 boats bound for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.

The coast near Sfax has become a major starting point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.

The latest disaster came at the height of a campaign of arrests by Tunisian authorities of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans.

At least 12,000 migrants who reached Italy this year departed from Tunisia, compared to 1,300 in the same period in 2022, according to the UN. Previously, the main point of departure for migrants was Libya.

According to FTDES statistics, the Tunisian Coast Guard prevented more than 14,000 migrants from leaving by boat in the first three months of this year, compared to 2,900 in the same period last year.

The Italian Coast Guard said on Thursday it had rescued about 750 migrants in two operations off Italy’s southern coast.

Europe risks facing a huge wave of migrants coming to its shores from North Africa if financial stability is not ensured in Tunisia, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni said on Friday. Meloni urged the IMF and some countries to quickly help Tunisia to avoid its collapse.

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Eddie Hudson is an Entertainment News Reporter and Fashion Stylist. Graduated with a degree in Television Production from Howard University. He is an award-winning entertainment news reporter at 24PalNews and credits his upbringing and passion for helping others as the foundation for his success.

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