Dozens Sudanese dead or missing after boat sinks in Mediterranean Sea, as UN warns of Sudan’s ‘epic suffering’

Migrants from Eritrea, Egypt, Syria and Sudan, wait to be assisted by aid workers of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, after fleeing Libya on board a precarious wooden boat in the Mediterranean sea, about 110 miles north of Libya, on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Joan Mateu)

Just as the United Nations has appealed for $4.1 billion to ease ‘epic suffering’ caused by war in Sudan, at least 13 migrants were reported dead and 27 others missing, all from Sudan, after their small boat sank off the Tunisian coast trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

The group of 42 Sudanese people had left from the coast of nearby Sfax, a common jumping-off point for illegal boat journeys across the Mediterranean to Italy, but their small metal boat sank soon after setting to sea, a local official said. Only two people on board are reported to have survived, while search operations were under way for those missing, he added. Such migration attempts have increased recently from Tunisia, by both Tunisians and people from the war-torn Sudan and other African countries. More than 2,270 migrants died in 2023 trying to cross the central Mediterranean to Europe, a 60% increase on the previous year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This comes as the UN appealed for $4.1 billion to meet the “most urgent humanitarian needs” amidst “epic suffering” in Sudan that plunged into a civil war about 10 months ago, forcing at least nine million people to flee their homes. The UN added in a statement that half of Sudan’s population — some 25 million people — are in need of support and protection, with millions hungry and displaced by the war. Most of those effected have taken refuge either in safer parts of the country, or in neighboring states.

Last year, the European Union signed a deal with Tunisia to tackle irregular migration, which includes $118m to stop smuggling, strengthen borders and return migrants.