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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Tunisia PM fires senior minister amid alarm over migrant deaths

Lotfi Brahem was dismissed after 112 perished in a capsized boat off the coast of Sfax

Relatives carry a coffin containing the body of an immigrant who drowned when a boat full of refugees capsized off Tunisia. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo
Relatives carry a coffin containing the body of an immigrant who drowned when a boat full of refugees capsized off Tunisia. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed fired his interior minister on Wednesday amid recriminations over a capsized boat of migrants off the Tunisian coast in the deadliest wreck this year on the Mediterranean Sea route to Europe.

The announcement did not say why Lotfi Brahem was fired but came a day after Mr Brahem sacked 10 senior security officials amid an investigation into the weekend disaster. An estimated 112 people were known to be dead or missing.

Officials have cited “security failures” surrounding the capsizing early on Sunday of the old, overloaded boat near Kerkennah Island off the coast of the city of Sfax. The boat was carrying about 180 people.

Among those fired are the heads of the judicial police and national guard in Sfax and the head of the maritime border patrol in Kerkennah.

Authorities said eight smugglers were wanted by police in connection with the capsizing – all of them from Kerkennah.

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Read more:

More than 100 feared dead near Tunisia in Mediterranean crossing attempt

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As in other North African countries, youths and even entire families are known to set off from Tunisia to attempt the risky Mediterranean crossing. The high number of deaths in the latest disaster, however, sparked criticism of the security forces. In October, a collision between a migrant boat and navy vessel killed 45 migrants.

Police presence in Kerkennah has been reduced following clashes several months ago between officers and protesters seeking jobs at an oil company in the area.

The spokesman for the interior ministry, Khalifa Chibani, has said police forces would be reposted to the island “very shortly.”

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