TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia has agreed to accept a boat carrying around 40 African migrants stranded for two weeks off the country’s coast after first allowing it to dock, the Red Crescent said on Tuesday.
Monji Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent, said the boat will arrive on Wednesday morning in the southern port of Zarzis.
Among the migrants are two pregnant women, he said, adding that aid and food had been already delivered to the vessel.
The North African country had first argued Malta or Italy should accept the migrants, according to the Red Crescent.
It was not clear where the migrants had set off from before they were rescued by the Tunisian vessel.
The new Italian government has closed its ports to charity ships operating in the Mediterranean, saying the European Union must share the burden of accepting the hundreds of migrants who are plucked from waters each month, mostly off the Libyan coast.
Rome called last month for migrant centers to be set up in Africa to stop a tide of asylum-seekers fleeing toward western Europe. Tunisia has rejected this proposal.
At least 80 migrants died when their boat sank off the Tunisian coast in June, one of the worst migrant boat accidents in the North African country of recent years.
Human traffickers are increasingly using Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading to Europe as the Libyan coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
Reporting by Mohamed Argoubi; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg.