At least 20 people have drowned in waters off Tunisia’s Sfax after a migrant boat capsized, with another 20 still missing.

File Photo: The wrecked boats are shown that have carried migrants at the coastal city Monastir, Tunisia, April 16, 2018.
File Photo: The wrecked boats are shown that have carried migrants at the coastal city Monastir, Tunisia, April 16, 2018. (AP)

At least 20 African migrants died after their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia.

They were trying to cross the Mediterranean making their way towards the Italian island of Lampedusa, a Tunisian security official said on Thursday.

The coastguard rescued five people, ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri said, adding that a search operation is still underway for about 20 others who were on board the boat, which had about 45 people.

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The coastline near the Tunisian port city of Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East and searching for a better life in Europe.

"The boat sank about 10km from the coast of Sfax. Twenty bodies were recovered, five others were rescued, and all are from sub-Saharan Africa," the security official, Ali Ayari, said.

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Source: Reuters