Last Monday a Tunisian coastguard operation off the coast of the port town of Sfax, 250 km south of capital Tunis, intercepted 372 migrants attempting to leave the shores of the country in small and unseaworthy boats.
The coastguard used speedboats to intercept the migrant vessels, many of which were overloaded and at risk of being swamped by even a small wave.
The migrants told reporters that they had anticipated their vessel to carry them to international waters, where they could be rescued and taken to Europe.
Every night the seas are calm, and the situation remains unchanged, according to officials with dozens of overcrowded migrant vessels embarking on a perilous journey.
Instead, they are brought aboard a coastguard cutter and would be later returned to Tunisia.
Attempting the sea journey were migrants from far and wide, with many from Bangladesh and Syria, but the majority on this night were from sub-Saharan West Africa.
The small sheet metal boats used by migrants, according to officials, are custom-built in small workshops in and around Sfax.
Despite police efforts to crack down on their production, it hasn’t stopped.
After the migrants are stopped, they are brought aboard the coastguard ships, their boats to be collected later by the authorities.
The coastguard says it has stopped over 13,000 migrants attempting to depart by sea illegally in the first quarter of the 2023.
They are calling for closely cooperation with neighbors Italy and Malta and say that their work is hindered by several of their ships being out of service for repairs.
Most migrants are released as soon as they are brought back to shore, with many hoping to attempt the trip again as soon as possible.