At least 39 migrants die in boats off Tunisia

At least 39 migrants died on Tuesday when two boats sank off Tunisia’s coast.

Defense officials said they were crossing the Mediterranean Sea toward the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The coastguard rescued 165 others and the search for survivors continues near the Tunisian port city of Sfax.

All those who died on Tuesday were from sub-Sahara African nations, according to a ministry spokesman.

The Tunisian coast has become a major departure point for people fleeing conflict and poverty at home as they seek opportunities for a better life in Europe.

In 2019, a boat traveling from Libya capsized off the Tunisian coast, killing about 90 migrants in one of the worst of such disasters.

One human rights group said the number of migrants traveling from Tunisia to Italy soared fivefold just last year, attributing the rise to Tunisia's economic crisis.