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Baby girl born on board rescue ship

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 - 6:36pm

Rescue after nearly 9,000 attempt treacherous crossing from Libya to Italy in four days. The new mother with her newborn baby in her arms, just before being taken to a fast boat to receive medical care in Malta.

Save the Children’s medical team safely delivered a baby girl last night on board the charity’s rescue ship in the Mediterranean, The Vos Hestia. The newborn baby, along with her mother and another heavily pregnant woman who had set out from Libya have now been taken by fast boat to receive care in Malta.

Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children’s Search and Rescue Director, said: “Yesterday we welcomed a newborn baby girl to the world. It was a moment of joy and hope amid the daily desperation that has seen more than 2,000 people lose their lives in the sea this year.

“Her mother was in the midst of a flight for safety. She was forced from home, exploited by smugglers and seemingly abandoned by the world. Mother and baby are now safe after both their lives dangled by a thread. Their survival is a stark reminder of what is at stake in the Med.” 

MacGillivray said a three-day-old baby and her mother had also been rescued from the sea by Save the Children. “Imagine the horrors you must be leaving behind to get on a flimsy boat with your new baby in the middle of the night, knowing her life could be snuffed out before it has even begun,” he said.

“After our team had worked flat out for 20 hours side by side with other NGOs, the Italian coastguard and navy, all rescue ships in the area were overwhelmed. And still more flimsy boats were sighted in the distance, demonstrating once again that the European response to save people at risk of drowning is inadequate and more capacity is needed.”

Among the largest number of people Save the Children has rescued in a single day were over 50 young children. More than 200 of those pulled from unstable and overcrowded boats are thought to be children travelling alone, without parents or guardians. 

These rescues came during the course of four days when almost 9,000 people attempted the crossing from Libya. The Vos Hestia was today returning to Italy with more than 1,000 on board.

In a fraught day on the sea, many people panicked as rescue boats approached, before jumping into the water despite the risk of drowning. While the rescue team were attending to one wooden boat, a rubber boat began to deflate, forcing them to rush to it to avert disaster. Three serious medical cases were immediately treated and stabilised in the on board clinic by our doctor and nurses. 

This intense day on the Med came just days after EU members committed to ‘stepping up co-ordination and delivery’ of plans that would force children to remain in Libya, where they are vulnerable to violence and abuse. 

The EU has begun training and equipping the Libyan coastguard with the aim of preventing people from setting off or making it out of Libyan waters. The EU is also providing funding and other incentives to countries in Africa on the condition that they stop refugees and migrants from making the journey towards Europe, and prioritise readmissions from the continent.

MacGillivray said: “Simply pushing desperate children back to Libya, which many describe as hell, is not a solution. We are also concerned that families might be forcibly sent back to the same countries of origin where they fled from persecution, war, rape, torture and exploitation.

“Once on board, those we rescue speak of the horror of being trapped in Libya. Women we have rescued have told us that women and girls would been taken from the streets for hours, sexually assaulted and often raped, then left where they were found. One man had witnessed door to door attacks in which many West Africans were killed. Another man came on board with visible signs of suspected torture including acid drops, electrical burns and bullet wounds. Another told us people in his detention centre were whipped and electrocuted every day, so they would scream to their families to send more money. There were also accounts of people being kidnapped and then ‘sold’ to others for work.

“This is the fate people are condemned to by policies that return them to Libya. The lack of any kind of guarantee of protection for those caught up in these deals is unacceptable. A human rights monitoring and accountability mechanism would be a step in the right direction.”

He added: “Europe is outsourcing and deserting its responsibility to refugees and migrants. It is undermining its own credibility by prioritising border control over saving lives in the short term or a realistic, humane plan in the long term. Member states must work urgently towards a policy which prioritises safe and legal routes to Europe, including resettlement and humanitarian visas. More money should also be spent on addressing the conditions that force people to migrate in the first place by increasing development aid for poor countries and working to end violence and persecution in their countries of origin.”

Save the Children’s search and rescue operations have so far rescued over 3,400 people in 2017, including over 500 children. 

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact the Dan Stewart – d.stewart@savethechildren.org.uk / 07831 650409

Notes to Editors:

  • The conclusions of the European Council meeting on 22nd and 23rd June reaffirmed commitment to the Malta Declaration, the Partnership Framework and the Joint Valletta Action Plan.[ii]
  • According to the IoM 8,863 people attempted the crossing from North Africa to Italy between 24th and 27th June 2017
  • As of 24th June 85,312 people had attempted the crossing in 2017[iii].
  • As of 22nd June 2,108 people had lost their lives attempting the crossing in 2017[iv].