At least 46 migrants lost their lives and 68 others were rescued off the Tunisian coast over the past weekend (2-3 June) amidst increasing human trafficking activity in Tunisia. The search for more people is resuming today (4 June). The boat was carrying about 180 people, including 80 from African countries – Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mali, Morocco and others. The death toll is one of the worst in recent years. A Tunisian defense ministry spokesman added that “the coastguard and the navy continue their search with the support of a military plane. Units of the Sfax Marine Guard and the Navy went to the boat which was five nautical miles from Kerkennah Island and 16 nautical miles from the city of Sfax.”
Tunisia is becoming a new hub for human traffickers dispatching migrants to Europe. Jobless Tunisians and other Africans often attempt to depart in makeshift boats from Tunisia to Sicily in Italy. Another of the recent accidents claimed the lives of nine migrants, including six children, drowned off Turkey’s coast early on Sunday morning (3 June). Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that there were 14-16 people on the vessel – the remaining migrants were rescued by the Turkish coastguard and one by a passing fishing vessel.
In the meantime, migration has become the defining topic of Europe’s elections throughout the bloc. Between 2015 and 2017, more than a million asylum seekers and economic migrants entered the EU, making it the largest influx of displaced people in Europe since the Second World War. European Parliament elections in May 2019 are very likely going to be influenced by the migration agenda.