Baby Ali* was born on board the Geo Barents after the stress of the journey and rescue triggered his mother Fatima's labor | Source: @MSF_Sea Twitter
Baby Ali* was born on board the Geo Barents after the stress of the journey and rescue triggered his mother Fatima's labor | Source: @MSF_Sea Twitter

On Wednesday, a baby boy was born on board the migrant rescue ship Geo Barents in the central Mediterranean. The baby’s mother fled Libya with her three other sons. A second woman on board was also nine months pregnant. Both have now been evacuated.

The number of migrants on board the private rescue ship Geo Barents, operated by the humanitarian medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), went from 254 to 255 on Wednesday (December 7) after Baby Ali * was born to his mother Fatima* after a reported seven hours of labor, according to Italian online news portal Italy24.

Fatima was also traveling with her three older sons. The family had fled Libya and were traveling on a crowded and unstable boat before being rescued, stated MSF. After several requests from the crew, the family was airlifted off the Geo Barents late on Wednesday to Lampedusa. A second pregnant woman, reportedly just 18 years old, who is also at full term, was airlifted to Malta by helicopter.

A video posted by MSF on Twitter showed Baby Ali* relatively soon after his birth. His eyes and fists were still scrunched shut and he was wearing a little black hat and covered in a yellow and white towel.

Stress of journey triggered labor

The stress of the departure from Libya, worrying about her three, now four, sons and the eventual rescue by Geo Barents had triggered her labor, said the MSF crew.

Late on Wednesday, the crew posted another tweet: "We are relieved that Fatima* the woman who delivered today on the Geo Barents has just been evacuated to Lampedusa with her four children." The crew added that further delay to evacuate the family "could have impacted their well-being and their health."

The news of Ali*'s birth was reported in the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa as "The Miracle of Ali". The article stated that before the family’s evacuation there had been "tension" because reportedly Malta had said they would "divide" the family, accepting Fatima and Ali but not her other children, who should stay on board the boat.

MSF called the decision "inacceptable if not inhumane." According to La Stampa, MSF crew member Candida Lobes said that Malta’s offer was "simply illegal because it violates the rights of the minors [Fatima’s other children]." One of the other children is reported to be just two years old.

Evacuated to Lampedusa

Lobes added that the most sensible decision would be to take Fatima and all her children by sea to Lampedusa and then fly them to the Sicilian main island. Lobes said she was relying on the "common sense of the Italian authorities in order to avoid any further suffering for the family."

On Thursday, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles ECRE tweeted about Ali, saying "This newborn crossed borders and seas in his mum’s belly and decided to make it to the world regardless." ECRE added, "Welcome to the world Ali. We hope you and the other 254 would have a more dignified life from now on." ECRE joined the calls of humanitarian organizations for a "safe port now!"

Also read: Italy: 'Welcoming has its limits, we need a new European migration policy'

291 on board Louise Michel and Humanity 1

After the evacuations, the Geo Barents has 249 people on board. The Louise Michel, another private rescue ship currently operating in the central Mediterranean, posted an update on Wednesday evening saying that it had carried out a total of five rescues in two days together with fellow rescue ship Humanity 1.

The crew of the Louise Michel confirmed that it now had 33 people on board and the Humanity 1 was carrying 261 migrants. The crews of both ships were "awaiting a port of safety." They reminded the relevant authorities that "a rescue is only completed once all survivors can leave the ship to a safe place. We need a port of safety now."

According to Italian Interior Ministry figures from December 7, 96,816 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of the year.

*Not their real names, given as a pseudonym by MSF to protect their identity

With dpa and AFP


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