Boat capsizes during a clandestine attempt to reach Italy, leaving eight Tunisians dead and 15 others unaccounted for.

The North African country is seeing an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya toward Italy.
The North African country is seeing an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya toward Italy. (TRTWorld)

At least eight migrants have died and another 15 were missing after a boat sank off Tunisia, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, local media said.

A further 17 people who were attempting the journey were rescued, a security source told the AFP news agency.

According to survivors, the passengers — all from the North African country — had set out from the coastal region of Sfax.

The coast guard is still searching for survivors, the security official said.

Tunisia is a key departure point for migrants and refugees seeking to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa just 130 kilometres away, often in vessels that are barely seaworthy.

READ MORE: Multiple casualties as boat sailing from Tunisia to Italy capsizes

Thousands take the route

In recent months, dozens of people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya toward Italy.

The summer months also tend to see higher numbers of people making such journeys.

According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, more than 2,000 Tunisian children were among more than 10,100 migrants and refugees from the North African country to have made it to Italy since the start of 2022.

The EU's Frontex border agency says more than 42,500 migrants and refugees used the central Mediterranean route between January and July, up 44 percent compared with the first seven months of 2021.

READ MORE: Dozens missing in Mediterranean as migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

Source: TRTWorld and agencies