Tunisia's coast guard recovered the bodies of 21 African migrants on Monday and rescued another 50 from the Mediterranean Sea, following the sinking of the small boat in which they were covertly trying to reach Europe.
They were picked up from the water off Sfax, a city halfway down the country's eastern coastline.
"The bodies of 21 migrants have been recovered after their small boat sank on July 4th, and 50 were rescued," national guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli told AFP.
The migrants were all from sub-Saharan Africa and had embarked from Sfax to try to reach Europe, he added.
Sunday's sinking was the latest in a recent series of disasters. In total, four small boats have sunk after leaving Sfax since June 26, the authorities say. A total of 78 migrants have been rescued while the bodies of 49 have been pulled from the water.
In addition, on Saturday (July 3) a boat which had left Libya with 127 passengers on board sank off the coast of Zarsis in southern Tunisia. In all 84 migrants were saved but 43 were missing, the Tunisian Red Cross indicated.
In mid-May the authorities said more than 50 migrants drowned and 33 were rescued after their boat sank, also off Sfax.
Departures from Tunisia towards Europe's coastlines reached a peak in 2020 not seen since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. But most of those seeking exile are no longer Tunisians.
According to the NGO the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), non-Tunisian nationals -- of whom most were immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa -- made up 53% of migrants who arrived in Italy from Tunisia in the first three months of 2021.