Friday 19 January 2018

Nine-month-old baby orphaned as 80 migrants die crossing Mediterranean

Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe
Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe

Andrea Vogt in Lampedusa

Some 80 people are feared to have drowned after a migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean yesterday, an Italian coastguard spokesman said.

It is the third deadly incident in two days, after five migrants were confirmed to have died when a large fishing boat flipped over on Wednesday.

And a nine-month-old baby was orphaned on Wednesday when her mother died after being burned by fuel leaking from the rubber dinghy she was travelling on, as it crossed from Libya to Italy.

The baby, named Favour and believed to be from Mali, arrived at the island of Lampedusa on Wednesday in the arms of a young woman with burns all over her body.

She told doctors she had saved the baby from arms of the dying mother, who was also burned and later drowned.

It is not uncommon for migrants making the sea crossing from Libya to arrive at Italy's ports with burn wounds caused by fuel that has leaked from a dinghy's motor. The woman was immediately transported to the burn ward in Palermo.

In video taken at the quayside, the Lampedusa hospital director and coroner, Pietro Bartolo, can be seen cradling the baby, wearing a blue wool cap and swaddled in a gold heat blanket, in his arms.

"As soon as I took her in my arms she peed on me, but it was wonderful because it meant she was alive," Dr Bartolo said in interviews with the Italian media. "She's been fed, washed and changed, and incredibly, she is smiling." Dr Bartolo appealed for the girl to be adopted.

"I would adopt her if I could, I want to keep her with me forever," he told local media.


Little Favour is just one of the 5,700 unaccompanied minors to have arrived in Italy by sea this year.

According to Save the Children, the number of unaccompanied children has nearly tripled compared with the same period last year.

Favour will be transferred to Palermo, where officials will oversee care and eventually organise placement or adoption for her, as they do for most of the unaccompanied minors who arrive in Sicily.

She was one of the 120 migrants rescued from their sinking dinghy by a passing Norwegian merchant vessel, one of the many ships in the area scrambled to help the Italian Coast Guard, which has been overwhelmed by the rescue of more than 6,000 people in the last 72 hours.

Irish Independent

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