Divers are still searching for potentially up to 20 missing people, although it is not yet clear how many people were on the boat
(Representative image) AFP

Tunisia's coastguard has recovered 15 more bodies of migrants, bringing the death toll from a shipwreck off Tunisia to 25, a security official told Reuters on Thursday.

A wooden boat packed with about 110 migrants sank on Wednesday off the coast of the city of Sfax. Seventy-six people were rescued while the rest are still missing.

Drowning accidents off Tunisia have dramatically? ?increased in recent weeks, leaving dozens dead and missing, amid a sharp rise in migrant boats heading towards Italy from the Tunisian coast.

The coastguard recovered the bodies of 14 migrants, including six women from African countries, and one Tunisian who was the captain of the boat, the national guard official Houssem Eddin Jebabli said.

Tunisia has taken over from Libya as a main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe.

Three times as many people sought to reach the European Union across the Mediterranean in the first three months of 2023 compared to last year, the bloc's border agency said, as the U.N. migration arm decried the deadliest first quarter since 2017.

The Tunisian National Guard said this month that more than 14,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were intercepted or rescued in the first three months of the year while trying to cross to Europe, five times more than figures recorded in the same period last year.

On Tuesday, Italy's right-wing government announced a state of emergency on immigration following a sharp rise in arrivals across the Mediterranean, a move that will allow it to send back unwanted migrants more quickly.