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Massive Tunisia Migrant Rescue

FILE: Dozens of migrants fall in the water while they struggle to cling to the side of an upturning boat off the waters of Tunisia, 5.25.2022

Tunisia's coastguard said Monday it had rescued 455 migrants the night before during operations to combat irregular migration off the country's coasts.

Tunisia's maritime border authority, the National Guard said in a statement, "National guard units in the north, centre, east and south thwarted 37 attempts to cross."

During the operations, "455 people were rescued, including 289 of various (sub-Saharan) African nationalities, the rest being Tunisians", spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said.

Tunisia is a key departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe -- usually Italy -- and sea crossing attempts tend to increase during spring and summer.

In late May, the coastguard reported that more than 70 people were missing while 24 were rescued after a boat crowded with migrants headed for Europe from Libya sank off the Tunisian port of Sfax.

Last year, 15,671 migrants attempted to reach Italy from Tunisia, up from fewer than 13,000 in 2020, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

Nearly 2,000 migrants went missing or drowned in the Mediterranean in 2021, compared to 1,401 the previous year, according to the International Organization for Migration.