Five sub-Saharan African migrants drowned and five more were missing after their boat capsized off Tunisia en route to Europe, authorities said Saturday.

The Tunisian coast guard rescued about 20 more people from the Mediterranean, according to the district attorney for the port city of Sfax, Faouzi Masmoudi.

Boats were still scouring the waters off Sfax looking for more survivors, Masmoudi added.

Parts of the Tunisian coast lie less than 150 kilometers (just 90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, making it a favorite jumping-off point for migrants willing to risk crossing the dangerous sea.

More than 23,500 immigrants of various nationalities were intercepted off Tunisia between January and September last year, according to the FTDES human rights group that follows migration issues.

More than 500 people died or went missing at sea during the same period, it said.

The coast guard is under pressure to stop the flow, but lacks the means to do so, according to the Tunisian authorities.

The so-called central Mediterranean route, which also includes ship launches from neighboring Libya, is the deadliest migration route in the world.


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