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Tunisia Plucks More Migrants

FILE: Migrants rescued by Tunisia's national guard during an attempted crossing of the Mediterranean by boat rest at the port of el-Ketef in Ben Guerdane in southern Tunisia near the border with Libya on 6.27.2021

UPDATED: Tunisian authorities said Monday they intercepted or rescued more than 650 migrants trying to reach Europe by sea at the weekend, the latest of numerous such cases in the past two months.

In total, 657 people were rescued or prevented from trying to cross in 46 separate incidents between Friday and Monday, maritime and military officials said.

The Tunisia Coast Guard thwarted 10 attempted crossings overnight, bringing ashore 156 would-be migrants, the National Guard said in a statement Monday.

Two-thirds of them were from sub-Saharan Africa and the rest were Tunisians.

The previous night, the National Guard said it had foiled 11 other attempts, preventing 219 people from migrating, including 113 from sub-Saharan African countries.

The Tunisian coastguard on Sunday night thwarted 10 attempted crossings, bringing ashore 156 would-be new arrivals in Italy, the National Guard said.

Two-thirds of them were from sub-Saharan Africa and the rest were Tunisians.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Mohamed Zekri told AFP that 42 Egyptians who had set sail from neighboring Libya were rescued Sunday off Kerkennah, central Tunisia, after their boat sank and they took refuge on an oil platform.

After a similar incident in the same zone the previous weekend, 10 Tunisian migrants were feared to have drowned while 20 were saved.

Tunisian authorities also said 15 members of a family from Hammamet in central Tunisia, including five women and four small children, were prevented from heading out to sea on Friday night.

Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa.

Tunisia is in the throes of political and economic crises, and Libya has been gripped by lawlessness since 2011 that has seen militias turn to people trafficking.