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Migrant boat sinks off Tunisian coast; 4 dead, 7 missing

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Tunisia’s defense ministry said four people died after a boat carrying migrants bound for Europe on the Mediterranean Sea sank off the Tunisian coast as it headed for Italy.

Local media reported that a 10-year-old girl was among those who died.

Survivors told authorities the boat left the island of Kerkennah, near the port city of Sfax, carrying 32 Tunisians.

The UN has estimated that 20% of the approximately 115,000 migrants who reached Europe by sea last year started the journey from Tunisia. Social unrest has gripped the North African country for years as the economy deteriorated and unemployment hit 18%.

The Central Mediterranean route, which connects North Africa to southern Italy, is the busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe. People travel from Libya and Tunisia in crowded boats and at the mercy of smugglers they pay to ferry them across the sea.

About 60,000 people arrived in Italy by sea last year, and some 1,200 died or went missing during the journey, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On Wednesday, a Tunisian navy amphibious unit rescued 23 people from a sinking boat as they left Tunisia for Italy, according to the Tunisian Defense Ministry. He said 13 of the passengers were from Mali and 10 from the Ivory Coast.

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Migrant boat sinks off Tunisian coast; 4 dead, 7 missing

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