TUNIS - At least eight migrants died and another 15 were missing after a boat sank off Tunisia on Thursday, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, State Monastir Radio said.

The coastguard rescued 14 migrants who had been on the overcrowded boat, which sank off Chebba town in Mahdia region.

A security official said that the boat set off from El Awabed coast in Sfax region this week. He added that most of migrants in the boat are Tunisians.

The coastline of Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty in Africa and the Middle East for a chance at a better life in Europe.

In recent months, dozens of people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya toward Italy.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous journey crossing the Mediterranean in recent years.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Deepa Babington)