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Dozens killed as migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

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Dozens killed as migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

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The Tunisian government says at least 48 migrants were killed when their boat sank off the country’s coast. Another 67 were rescued by the coast guard, according to officials.

It’s one of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years.

The defence ministry said the vessel went down near the tourist island of Kerkennah overnight from Saturday to Sunday.

The rescue operation which was suspended on Sunday evening was due to resume on Monday morning.

Security officials said the boat was crammed with about 180 migrants, around 100 of them Tunisian and the remainder from other African countries.

One survivor said the captain abandoned the boat after it began sinking to escape arrest.

The man, speaking from a hospital in the Tunisian city of Sfax, said he survived by clinging to wood for nine hours.

Unemployed Tunisians and other Africans often try to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift boats hoping to reach Sicily in southern Italy.

Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League, was in Sicily on Sunday, and vowed to stop migrant boats from leaving African coasts in a bid to save lives.

Separately, nine people including six children died at the weekend after a speedboat carrying 15 migrants sank off Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, the Turkish coast guard said.

By the end of May, more than 32,000 people had reached Europe by sea and some 660 had died attempting the crossing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).