Drowned baby picture cap­tures week of tragedy in Mediter­ranean


ROME: A pho­to­graph of a drowned mi­grant baby in the arms of a Ger­man res­cuer was dis­trib­uted on Mon­day by a hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion aim­ing to per­suade Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties to en­sure safe pas­sage to mi­grants, af­ter hun­dreds are feared to have drowned in the Mediter­ranean last week.

The baby, who ap­pears to be no more than a year old, was pulled from the sea on Fri­day af­ter the cap­siz­ing of a wooden boat. Forty-five bodies ar­rived in the south­ern Ital­ian port of Reg­gio Cal­abria on Sun­day aboard an Ital­ian navy ship, which picked up 135 sur­vivors from the same in­ci­dent.

Ger­man hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion Sea-Watch, op­er­at­ing a res­cue boat in the sea be­tween Libya and Italy, dis­trib­uted the picture taken by a me­dia pro­duc­tion com­pany on board and which showed a res­cuer cradling the child like a sleep­ing baby.

In an e-mail, the res­cuer, who gave his name as Martin but did not want his fam­ily name pub­lished, said he had spot­ted the baby in the wa­ter “like a doll, arms out­stretched.”

“I took hold of the fore­arm of the baby and pulled the light body pro­tec­tively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive ... It held out its arms with tiny fin­gers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but mo­tion­less eyes.”

The res­cuer, a fa­ther of three and by pro­fes­sion a mu­sic ther­a­pist, added: “I be­gan to sing to com­fort my­self and to give some kind of ex­pres­sion to this in­com­pre­hen­si­ble, heart-rend­ing mo­ment. Just six hours ago this child was alive.”

Like the pho­to­graph of the three­year-old Syr­ian boy Ay­lan ly­ing life­less on a Turk­ish beach last year, the im­age puts a hu­man face on the more than 8,000 peo­ple who have died in the Mediter­ranean since the start of 2014.

Lit­tle is known about the child, who ac­cord­ing to SeaWatch was im­me­di­ately handed over to the Ital­ian navy. Res­cuers could not con­firm whether the par­tially clothed in­fant was a boy or a girl and it is not known whether the child’s mother or fa­ther are among the sur­vivors.

Sea-Watch col­lected about 25 other bodies, in­clud­ing an­other child, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony from the crew seen by Reuters. The SeaWatch team said it unan­i­mously de­cided to pub­lish the photo.

“In the wake of the dis­as­trous events it be­comes ob­vi­ous to the or­ga­ni­za­tions on the ground that the calls by EU politi­cians to avoid fur­ther death at sea sum up to noth­ing more than lip ser­vice,” Sea-Watch said in a state­ment in English dis­trib­uted along with the pho­to­graph.

The boat car­ry­ing the baby left the shores of Libya near Sabratha late on Thurs­day, and then be­gan to take on wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to ac­counts by sur­vivors col­lected by Save the Chil­dren on Sun­day. Hun­dreds were on board when it cap­sized, the sur­vivors said.

HEART-BREAK­ING: Ger­man res­cuer from the hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion Sea-Watch holds a drowned mi­grant baby, off the Libyan coast last Fri­day. (Reuters)

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