Tunisia: Protests, Search Efforts as 40 Tunisian Migrants Reported Missing

by | Jan 19, 2024 | Security, Social, Tunisia


On the night of 10-11 January 2024, a boat carrying around 40 irregular migrants departed for Europe, but in the following days was reported missing, drawing outrage from the small village from which nearly all of the boats’ occupants hailed. 

On 16 January 2024, demonstrators in the coastal town of El Hancha, which sits approximately 45 kilometers north of Sfax, blocked roads and set fires as frustration grew over the disappearance of over 30 citizens of the town. Local media reported that of the nearly 40 missing people, less than five were from other areas of Tunisia, with a majority being from El Hancha. 

As of 19 January, security officials reported that the search for the missing boat was ongoing, though no news of the boat and its occupants had been provided. 


Despite increased risk during the winter months, many Tunisians, as well as citizens of many other African countries, continue to pursue opportunities to irregularly migrate to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. 

The socio-economic pressures driving many Tunisians to pursue illegal migration to Europe remain and, in many communities, are growing. Young people in particular are battling unemployment in the face of rising prices, inflation, and shortages of basic goods.  

A multi-year drought has made the impact on rural agricultural communities even greater, putting pressure on families in places like El Hancha to seek extreme options to relieve financial pressure and pursue a more promising future. 

With no clear end in sight to Tunisia’s mounting socio-economic pressure and limited capabilities to intercept and deter irregular migrants, similar events are likely to continue as many feel the promise of life in Europe is worth the significant risk of a sea crossing. 


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