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11 Dead, 44 Missing in Shipwreck Off Tunisia's Coast

FILE - Migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, are stopped by Tunisian Maritime National Guard at sea during an attempt to get to Italy, near the coast of Sfax, Tunisia, on April 18, 2023.

TUNIS, TUNISIA — At least 11 migrants have died in a shipwreck off Tunisia's coast and 44 others are missing, a judicial official said Monday, revising an earlier toll of four fatalities.

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

Two have been rescued out of the 57 people aboard the boat, all from sub-Saharan African countries, Masmoudi said, adding that the authorities were searching for the missing migrants.

At least 30 migrants are missing after two unrelated sinkings near the Italian island of boats that departed last week from Sfax, according to survivor testimony.

Authorities in Tunisia found the bodies of 12 migrants that washed ashore north of Sfax between Friday and Sunday, but it wasn't immediately clear whether they were related to the shipwreck near the Kerkennah Islands, located just across from Sfax.

The North African country has become a major gateway for irregular migrants and asylum seekers primarily from other parts of the continent, attempting perilous voyages in often rickety boats in the hopes of a better life.

According to Tunisia's interior ministry, 901 bodies had been recovered this year by July 20 following maritime accidents in the Mediterranean, while 34,290 migrants had been rescued or intercepted.

Most of them came from sub-Saharan African countries, it said.

Nearly 90,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, according to U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, with most of them having embarked from Tunisia or neighboring Libya.

The central Mediterranean migrant crossing from North Africa to Europe is the world's deadliest with more than 20,000 fatalities since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Since early July, hundreds of migrants have been driven out of Sfax after a Tunisian man's death in an altercation with migrants.

During the following days, Tunisian police have taken migrants to the desert or perilous areas near the Libyan and Algerian borders, rights groups and international organizations said.

Humanitarian sources have put their number at over 2,000, with at least 25 reported deaths of migrants abandoned in the Tunisian-Libyan border area since last month.