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Tunisia minister, officials sacked after deadly shipwreck

People in the Tunisian town of Sfax on June 4, 2018, receive the bodies of loved ones who drowned in the shipwreck
AFP

Tunis (AFP) – Tunisia’s interior minister and numerous officials were sacked on Wednesday, days after a shipwreck that killed at least 66 migrants.

No reason was given for the dismissal of the minister, Lotfi Brahem, who the prime minister’s office said will be replaced temporarily by Justice Minister Ghazi Jribi.

Sources close to the government told AFP that Brahem’s sacking was expected, as he had poor relations with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

The minister’s departure came after a boat overcrowded with migrants sank after leaving the Kerkennah Islands off the coast of Sfax province.

Earlier on Wednesday Brahem accused officials of negligence over the incident, announcing the sacking of 10 people.

A “preliminary investigation” had shown that officials had “directly or indirectly” failed to carry out their duties, an interior ministry statement said.

Among those fired were national guard officials based in Sfax and others from the maritime unit in Kerkennah.

A total of 68 people were rescued from the vessel after it ran into trouble late on Saturday evening.

On Monday the International Organization for Migration said “at least 112 people” had died in the accident.

Survivors have said the boat was packed with more than 180 people, which would mean dozens are still missing.

The shipwreck is the deadliest in the Mediterranean since February 2, when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya, according to the IOM.

Tunisians and other migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean to seek a better future in Europe.

In March, 120 people — mostly Tunisians — were rescued by the navy as they tried to reach the Italian coast.

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