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Seventy five missing after crowded boat of migrants sinks off the coast of Tunisia

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By Euronews  with Reuters
A group of migrants wait to be assisted by a team from the Spanish NGO Open Arms, around 20 miles southwest of Italy, Thursday July 29, 2021.
A group of migrants wait to be assisted by a team from the Spanish NGO Open Arms, around 20 miles southwest of Italy, Thursday July 29, 2021.   -   Copyright  (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

Some 75 people are missing after a crowded boat sank off the coast of Tunisia on Wednesday, according to the International Organisation for Migration and a Tunisian security official.

The IOM said 24 people had been rescued from the craft, which had departed from the beaches of Zawara in Libya and sank off the coast of Sfax.

The unnamed Tunisian official told Reuters that the coastguard had recovered one body and continued to search for 75 others who fell into the water.

In recent months there has been a surge in the number of people trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe. Figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) show more than 123,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2021, compared to more than 95,000 in 2020.

Dozens of people have also recently drowned off the Tunisian coast after embarking for Italy. Earlier this month the Tunisian coastguard recovered a further 24 bodies, bringing the total to 67, after four boats carrying 120 people sank at the end of April. More than 50 victims of that incident are still missing.

Last week the coastguard also rescued 44 from an overcrowded boat that sank off the coast of Louza in Sfax. At least four of them died and another 10 were still unaccounted for, a security official said at the time.