Tunisia allowed 40 migrants stranded on a boat for two weeks off its shore to enter the country. The vessel was refused by European states – Italy, Malta and France – who all refused to let the vessel into their ports. Malta said that the government refuted claims that it had violated international maritime law by sending the migrants to the nearest port – Tunisia. Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said the boat carrying the migrants would enter Tunisia “for humanitarian reasons”. Mr. Chahed said he would authorize the boat to dock at the southern port of Zarzis.
The Tunisian Red Crescent said it had been providing the migrants with food and water as well medical assistance following reports of dire sanitary conditions on the boat combined with poor psychological health of the passenger. Ali Hajji, the captain of the Sarost 5 boat, said that “everyone, port authorities and navy, is still waiting for the order to be given to them so that the boat can enter the port and disembark the migrants.” More than 1,500 people have died since January this year while attempting to reach the shores of Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) data shows. The majority of the deaths were caused by drowning on the crossing from Libya to Italy, according to the numbers collected for the Missing Migrants Project.
The Libyan crossing route was followed by the route to Spain and the route to Greece, which claimed 304 and 89 lives respectively. The IOM commented that between January and end of July, 304 fatalities were “far outpacing the 124 recorded in the equivalent period of 2017 – and the 224 recorded as drowned or missing during all of last year”. In 2018, the number of people who arrived in Europe is 55,001, a drop of 50 percent compared to the same period last year. However, from the per capita perspective, 2018 is one of the deadliest years yet since the number of people trying to reach Europe is much lower. Last November, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) referred to the Mediterranean Sea as “by far the world’s deadliest border,” with more than 33,000 migrants dying in the attempt to make the dangerous crossing since 2000.