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17 die, 10 missing as four African migrant boats sink off Tunisian coast

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At least 17 African migrants have died while 10 were reported missing after four boats carrying around 120 people sank off the Tunisian coast of Sfax as they tried to embark on the dangerous mission of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, a Tunisian security official, Lt. Col. Ali Aayari, said on Sunday.

Aayari, who is in the Tunisian Coast Guard, added on that 98 migrants were “rescued off the coast of Sfax by rescue officials when the incident” which happened on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, 17 of the migrants and refugees died when the makeshift boats sank. The boats were four and most of the migrants were women and children. 10 people are still missing while 98 were rescued by officials,” Aayari said.

The coastline of Sfax has been notorious for being a major departure point for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East and seeking a better life in Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in reaction to the accident.

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 towards Italy, the UNHCR said.

The Tunisian Interior Ministry said earlier in the week that it had arrested more than 20,000 refugees and migrants off its coast last year while at least 15,000 reached the coast of Italy in 2021.

Earlier this month, 13 African migrants, including six children and four women, were confirmed dead when their boats sank off the Tunisian coast on their way to Europe, a judicial official in the country, Mourad Turki, said.

“Another 10 migrants were declared missing as the two make-shift boats sank off the coast of Sfax, while 37 were rescued. Among the bodies recovered were four women and six children,” Turki added in a statement.

Majority of the migrants were said to be from sub-Saharan Africa and had set off in the two boats to cross the Mediterranean into European countries in search of greener pastures, with many of them fleeing conflicts and poverty in their countries

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Over 10 million people displaced by Sudan war— IOM

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that as the world’s worst displacement crisis worsens in Sudan, almost 10 million, which is about 20% of the country’s population, have been forced from their homes since the conflict there started.

This is the most recent alarming estimate from the nation in East Africa, which has been destroyed by fighting that started in April 2023. The majority of the nation, around 50 million people, are now in need of humanitarian help and half of them are experiencing starvation as a result of the war.

According to a bimonthly report from the IOM, since the start of the conflict, over 2.2 million people have fled to foreign nations and about 7.8 million have sought safety within the nation. Previous conflicts in the country have already resulted in the displacement of an additional 2.8 million people.

When fighting broke out between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the capital city of Khartoum last year, it soon spread to the west throughout Darfur, with the RSF seizing control of most of the major cities.

Some UN experts have argued that the main cause of migration from Darfur—where it is impossible to provide aid—is now hunger rather than conflict.

“All refugees I met said the reason why they fled Sudan was hunger,” said World Health Organisation country director Dr. Shible Sahbani to reporters after visiting refugees from Darfur, the source of half of the displaced population, in Chad.

“A woman who just reached Adré reported that all food they used to produce locally in Darfur was taken by the fighters,” he added.

More than 150,000 people were displaced from Sennar state as the RSF extended its reach in the southeast of the nation in recent weeks, according to the IOM. Many of these individuals were relocated for the second or third time following RSF attacks on houses and marketplaces in the state’s minor towns and villages.

The RSF blames the activities of rogue actors and disputes that it has harmed civilians.

RSF forces have conducted incursions in Gedaref state, home to 668,000 people who are facing heavy rains and no shelter. This state is currently hosting a large number of displaced persons.

Human Rights Watch issued a warning last week about the risk of the RSF expanding into the Gedaref for the 40,000 Ethiopian refugees, most of whom are Tigrayans, who are alleged by the RSF to be fighting alongside the army.

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Nigerian govt to spend N3tn on new minimum wage, pensions, gratuities— Minister

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Nigeria’s Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu, on Friday, disclosed that the Federal Government would spend N3 trillion on the new minimum wage as well on payment of pensions and gratuities.

The minister made the disclosure during a meeting with the Senate Committee on Appropriations chaired by Olamilekan Adeola, while presenting the general principles of the newly amended 2024 budget to the committee at the meeting.

During the meeting with the Committee, Bagudu highlighted that the new budget additions would not be funded by loans but by an already reserved profit.

He further explained that priorities were given to projects that would open up roads for investments and emergencies, while other road projects would be addressed in subsequent batches.

He also stated that the country’s historical underinvestment in infrastructure was a root cause of recent problems and commended President Bola Tinubu for addressing the infrastructure deficit.

Bagudu told the Committee that the recurrent budget of N3tn will fund the minimum wage, pensions, and gratuities, while the capital component of N3.2tn will augment existing road projects on state and federal routes, including coastal roads, the Sokoto-Badagry road, railway construction, and dam irrigation.

Recall that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had on Thursday, accepted the N70,000 minimum wage proposed by Tinubu, saying it was an act of solidarity.

The union, in a statement signed by its National President, Joe Ajaero, at the end of its National Executive Council meeting, affirmed that the NLC would continue to defend the rights of Nigerian workers at all times.

“NEC-in-session concluded that this decision, though challenging and far from our initial demand, was made in the spirit of solidarity and sacrifice for the Nigerian masses to avert a threatened further hike in the price of petrol, which would inflict more hardship on the already suffering masses.

“Once again, NEC-in-session restates the commitment of the NLC to continue standing resolutely in its mission to defend and advance the rights of Nigerian workers and the Nigerian people at all times.

“It therefore calls on all Nigerians to unite in this cause and to hold our leaders accountable to the same standards of sacrifice and service.”

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