According to a spokesperson from AFM, a King Air Fixed Wing aircraft had assisted an operation to rescue survivors of a migrant boat which capsized off the coast of Tunisia.
The spokesperson told Newsbook.com.mt that the aircraft was called on several times to provide visuals to the Tunisian Navy responding to the boat in distress.
It is understood that around 65 people drowned when the boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia earlier today.
According to some of the 16 survivors, the boat had left from Zuwara in Libya but got into difficulty because of the strong waves.
It is understood that the Tunisian Navy had dispatched a ship when they heard about the incident, to rescue survivors. The survivors are now understood to be coming to shore.
UNHCR’s Envoy on the Central Mediterranean said, ‘This is a tragic and terrible reminder of the risks still faced by those who attempt to cross the Mediterranean.’
According to the UN Refugee Agency, over 160 people have died making the journey from Libya to Europe between January and April.
The tragic incident comes in the wake of an allegedly decreasing number of migrants attempting to make the crossing since 2017.
During the first quarter of 2019 almost 16,000 refugees and migrants made the trip across the Mediterranean’s three routes; West, Central and Eastern routes. This is apparently a 17% decrease on last year.
The decline is put down to the efforts of the Libyan coast guard preventing further migrant boat departures. Their efforts have strongly condemned by human rights groups and rescue NGOs operating beyond Libyan terroritorial waters.
At least 70 migrants drown off Tunisia coast – state agency TAP
At least 70 migrants drowned on Friday when their boat sank in international waters off the Tunisian coast, and 16 were saved, the state-run Tunis Afrique Presse agency said.
The boat sank 40 nautical miles off the coast of Sfax, south of the capital Tunis, it said. Fishing boats rescued the survivors, it said.
The U.N. migration agency put the death toll at least 50, with 16 survivors.