Tunisia recovers the bodies of 19 migrants who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe

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The bodies of 19 people were recovered Tuesday off the coast of Tunisia, one of the primary points of departure for those seeking to traverse the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The Tunisian coast guard said in a statement that it had recovered the bodies near the port cities of Mahdia and Sfax, the country’s second-largest city where migrants have in recent weeks clashed with law enforcement.

Despite risks, migrants continue to attempt the treacherous voyage from North Africa to Europe, travelling in boats from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya to Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain’s Canary Islands. More than 49,000 people have come to Europe by sea this year, including more than 7,000 from Tunisia to Italy. Many more have attempted the journey, including thousands who have been intercepted by North African authorities and an estimated 473 believed to be dead or missing, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.

Politicians on both sides of the Mediterranean have largely focused their migration policies on combating human trafficking and dismantling smuggling networks. Tunisian authorities said on Tuesday that they had arrested five smugglers. Human trafficking charges typically carry lengthy sentences of up to 20 years.

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