Nearly 400 migrants pulled off overcrowded wooden boat near Tunisia

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Two NGO boats on Sunday rescued close to 400 Middle Eastern and south Asian migrants from a wooden boat off the coast of Tunisia.

The humanitarian ships, Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking, transferred 394 migrants onto their boats as the migrants’ boat was over capacity, a witness told Reuters. The witness also said that the boat was starting to fill with water and its engine had stopped working.

The witness said that migrants, who were more than 40 miles off of Tunisia’s coast, took off from their boat and tried to swim toward the Sea-Watch 3 ship, which led the operation.

In total, the Sea-Watch 3 ship took 141 of the migrants – men who were mostly of Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan and Bangladeshi descent – while Ocean Viking received the others, Reuters reported. 

A German NGO yacht also assisted in the operation.

Reuters noted that it was unclear if any of the migrants had sustained injuries or had died during the operation.

Migrants in search of better living conditions or fleeing conflict in their own countries have attempted to make the dangerous trek from Libya and Tunisia to Italy. In late July, 17 Bengali migrants who attempted to travel from Libya to Italy died in a shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia while over 380 had been rescued, Reuters reported.

Reuters noted that while the number of migrants coming to Italy had fallen in the last few years, better weather has encouraged more crossings in recent months.

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