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Off the Tunisian coast, shipwrecks of migrants follow one another


Amadou’s voice wavers, overwhelmed with emotion. From his temporary haven of Sfax, a port city located 270 km south-east of Tunis, the young Guinean – who prefers to be identified under this assumed name – recounts how he rubbed shoulders with death, Wednesday, March 22, in the waters sea ​​ice. “We left around 4am, everything was normal, then the water started to enter the boat. Around 7 a.m., we were shipwrecked. » He remembers everything: boarding in the middle of the night on a beach near Sfax, the length of the boat and the power of the engine, the departure for the coasts of Sicily. Then, a few hours later, the waves violently hitting the hull, the panic, the distress call to the Tunisian coast guard, and finally the boat capsizing, the bodies in perdition. “There were little babies, they all died,” he breathes.

The young man testified on Friday March 24, sitting on a mattress on the floor in the middle of a dozen other migrants, four of whom were on board the same boat. All have found refuge in this small house in a residential area of ​​Sfax. Two rooms: a bedroom where they all sleep and a kitchen, not to mention the toilets. Barely a few square meters between which we never stop telling the tragedies and counting the dead. “Look at this photo, it’s a friend who disappeared yesterday”, launches a young man, brandishing his mobile phone. “Me, my brother died at sea two days ago”, responds another, in a timid voice. In recent days, shipwrecks are linked. At least five according to official Tunisian figures quoted by Reutersprobably more, which cost the lives of around thirty migrants.

Amadou and his comrades in misfortune were forced to leave Tunisia by a hostile climate. On February 21, the Head of State, Kaïs Saïed, delivered a speech against “the hordes of illegal immigrants” which sparked an unprecedented wave of racist attacks against the black community in the country. For those Sub-Saharans unable – or unwilling – not to return to their country of origin, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy was a must. This is the case of Amadou.

[Kaïs Saïed] made his declaration on the 21st, I lost my job as a pastry chef on the 23rdhe says. My boss was very nice, he was kind to me, he treated me well, he gave me food. But after the speech, he said to me: “I can’t take the risk of having problems.” He tried to arrange a work contract for me so that I could obtain my residence permit, but it was not possible. He paid me what he owed me and I left. » Two days later, his landlord told him to leave the apartment where he lived with two other people without delay. Amadou spent several days on the street before a friend offered to put him up. He joins him in Sfax in this house.

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