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Up to 70 migrants drown after boat capsizes off Tunisia

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Over 70 feared dead after migrant boat sinks in Mediterranean File image of migrant boat rescue

At least 65 migrants drowned when the smuggling boat carrying them sunk some 83 kilometers (51.6 miles) from the Tunisian coastal city Sfax on Friday.

Three bodies have been recovered, the Defense Ministry said.

Tunisia's defence ministry said the boat had left from the Libyan port of Zouara aiming to reach Italy.

Tunisian state news agency TAP said 70 people drowned as the boat sank and that fishing boats rescued 16 others.

The IOM official said the migrants were being questioned and cared for by Tunisian authorities.

An IOM official told The Associated Press news agency those on board included Bangladeshi and Moroccan nationals, among others.

According to United Nations agency the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean previous year out of a total of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.

Survivors say the boat left Zuwara in Libya on Thursday and ran into trouble during strong waves.

According to IOM figures, 443 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year.

A rubber boat with migrants is seen off the Libya coast (file image).

While the Italian authorities fear that the ongoing fighting in Libya will push thousands of Africans and Libyans to go to sea, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said several times in April that no one would be allowed to land in Italy.

"Across the region we need to strengthen the capacity of search and rescue operations", said Vincent Cochetel, the agency's special envoy for the Mediterranean.

"In the first four months of this year, one person has died (crossing the Mediterranean) for every three that have reached European shores, after departing from Libya", it said.

Mass migration to Europe has dropped sharply since 2015, when the continent received 1 million refugees and migrants from countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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