Four boats carrying refugees capsized off the coast of Tunisia, killing at least 17 people.

The bodies were taken from the sea by rescue workers, said court spokesman Murad al-Turki in the Tunisian port of Sfax.

At least one baby was among the dead.

The spokesman expressed the fear that the number of deaths could increase significantly.

According to survivors, there were between 30 and 32 people in each boat.

According to al-Turkis, the boats, which had been prepared for the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, were in "poor condition".

The majority of the people who left in the four boats on Saturday night came from sub-Saharan Africa, it said.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the four boats were on their way to Italy.

Al-Turki told the German Press Agency (dpa) on Sunday that there was hardly enough space in the cemeteries in Sfax because of the many dead migrants.

In addition, there is a lack of public funds.

The bodies would now be distributed to cemeteries in other municipalities.

Sources at the local hospital said around 50 bodies from past boating accidents are still in mortuaries and not buried.

Tunisia and neighboring Libya are important transit countries for refugees from Africa and the Middle East who want to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

This often happens in boats that are hardly seaworthy.

At least nine refugees were also killed off the coast of Lebanon over the weekend.

A heavily overloaded boat that had started from the port city of Tripoli in Lebanon with 60 people on board sank in high waves, the army said on Sunday, according to the state news agency NNA.

A Lebanese television station also reported this, citing the Red Cross.

After the accident, emergency services pulled at least nine bodies out of the water, including that of a little girl.

The army saved around 50 people.

A survivor accused the Navy of ramming the boat and causing it to sink.

Naval commander Haitham Dinnaui rejected this and stated that the boat was only designed for ten passengers and therefore sank.

The survivor said life in Lebanon had become "intolerable".

The country is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades.

According to the IOM, almost 2,000 refugees drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean last year or were officially declared missing.

This was a significant increase compared to 2020, when there were around 1400.