On Tuesday, the Tunisian navy recovered 22 bodies off Kraten, at the northernmost end of the Kerkenna Islands. The port is located 45 kilometers from the city of Sfax and 141 km from the coast of Lampedusa. The news was announced late in the afternoon by the spokesman of the Court of Sfax, Mourad Turki, who announced the opening of an investigation.
According to the Tunisian authorities, the boat left during the night between June 4 and 5 and carried 53 sub-Saharan migrants.
“The number of deaths will certainly be higher, but at the moment it is not possible to know exactly how many people were attempting the crossing,” says Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTES). “We challenge the attribution of the origin of the people exclusively on the basis of their skin color. There are also Tunisians with black skin.”
The Forum issued a harsh statement in which it accused the EU and its policies of inhumanity and of being “willing to do anything to hinder the arrival of migrants.”
The organization is also asking the Tunisian authorities to treat the bodies of the victims with dignity, ensuring a dignified burial and taking DNA samples in order to enter them into a database accessible to families looking for their loved ones.
“In the month of May, the Tunisian coast guard stopped 1,243 people who were ready to go to sea, 68% of sub-Saharan origin and 32% Tunisians,” Ben Amor says. “Such high numbers have not been recorded since 2011/2012. If the European migration policies will not change, there will soon be new tragedies.”
After the good weather returned, the departures have started again, as could be predicted. Since the beginning of 2020, 5,472 foreign citizens have landed in Italy (while in the same period of 2019 there were 2,128, compared to 14,315 in 2018). A third of the arrivals were registered in May, when there were no humanitarian boats in the Mediterranean. Sea-Watch has returned to sea only recently, and Mediterranea did so on Tuesday night.
“Women, men and children drown because they are trying to escape from hell,” says the Head of Mission of Mediterranea, Luca Casarini. “They’re not only migrants, not only shipwrecked, but they’re also war refugees, and obviously human beings. Black lives matter, including in the Mediterranean.”