TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The Tunisian Coast Guard has recovered at least 41 bodies of migrants, mostly Syrians, who drowned trying to sail to Europe, a local official said Saturday.
The bodies were found after a search was launched Friday after a few decomposed bodies washed up on shore suggesting the sinking of another boat carrying migrants from North Africa to Europe, seeking a better life.
Mustapha Abdel Kebir, the mayor of Ben Guerdane, a border town with Libya, said that identity papers recovered from the bodies indicate that most were Syrian and the dead included women and children.
Abdel Kebir said the boat was most likely an overcrowded zodiac — essentially an inflatable raft — that likely sailed from Libya before sinking and the currents washed the bodies up on Tunisian shores.
He added that fishermen reported seeing many more bodies in the sea over the past days.
Tunisian fishermen say they regular fish migrants, both dead and alive, out of the sea, attempting to make their way to Europe and say they’re quickly being overcome by this year’s flood of Africans and Middle Easterners seeking a new life in Europe.
The fishermen say they’ve seen up 30 boats of migrants leaving each day for Italy, each with a capacity of between 50 and 250 people, but it’s difficult to get exact numbers. Organizations such as the Red Crescent are trying to help some of the migrants picked up by the Tunisian Coast Guard.
The Italian navy said rescued more than 93,000 migrants since the start of the year.
With the breakdown in security in neighboring Libya, it has become a major jumping off point for boats carrying Syrian and sub-Saharan African refugees seeking a better life in Europe.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.