The latest incident in the Mediterranean is the fifth shipwreck in two days, raising the total number of missing to 67 amid a sharp increase in boats heading towards Italy.
At least 34 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were missing off Tunisia's Mediterranean coast on Friday after their boat capsized, a court official said, the latest in a string of tragedies this month.
The boat carrying 38 people had set off Thursday from near Sfax and was attempting to reach Italy, said Fawzi El Masmoudi, a court spokesman in the port city.
The fate of the remaining four people aboard the boat is unknown.
Sub-Saharan African migrants residing in Tunisia have been living in fear since an incendiary speech by President Kais Saied speech last month, in which he accused them of representing a demographic threat and causing a crime wave.
The latest incident is the fifth shipwreck in two days, raising the total number of missing to 67 amid a sharp increase in boats heading towards Italy.
The Italian coast guard said on Thursday it had rescued about 750 migrants in two separate operations off the southern Italian coastline, hours after at least five people died and 33 were missing in an attempted sea crossing from Tunisia.
Houssem Jebabli, an official at the National Guard, said the Coast Guard had stopped 56 boats heading for Italy in two days and detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries.
According to UN data, at least 12,000 migrants who have reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022. Previously, Libya was the main launch pad for migrants from the region.
READ MORE: Frightened Africans flee Tunisia after president's anti-migrant tirade
The coastline of Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East for a shot at a better life in Europe.
Last month, President Kais Saied said in comments widely criticised by rights groups and the African Union that undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration was a conspiracy aimed at changing Tunisia's demographic make-up.
Tunisia is struggling with its worst financial crisis due to stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a loan amid fears of a default in debt repayment, raising concerns in Europe, especially in neighbouring Italy.
Tunisia has been gripped by political upheavals since July 2021, when Saied seized most powers and shut down parliament.
Europe risks seeing a huge wave of migrants arriving on its shores from North Africa if financial stability in Tunisia is not safeguarded, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Friday.
Meloni called on the IMF and some countries to help Tunisia quickly to avoid its collapse.
READ MORE: More than dozen migrants from sub-Saharan Africa drown off Tunisia