Teen saves baby from shipwreck during Mediterranean crossing | Global Development


The actions of a Togolese teenager were hailed after video footage has been released of him supporting a baby he saved from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea last week in which at least 30 people died.

The 17-year-old, whose identity has not been disclosed, swam to rescue the child, whom he was holding above water when a rescue team arrived, in footage released by the French media group Brut.

“I’m a good swimmer and I went to help people,” said the teenager, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose rescue vessel Geo Barents arrived at the sinking site.

The identity of the 17-year-old, who kept the baby out of the sea as he clung to the wreckage, has not been released. Photography: Michael Bunel/Agence Le Pictorium/Zuma/Rex

Michael Bunel, a French photojournalist who was on board the rescue ship, told Brut that when they arrived they could hear the teenager shouting: “There is a baby. There is a baby.

The crew threw the teenager a flotation device to pull him and another survivor, and gave emergency care to the four-month-old baby, who at first wasn’t breathing. The baby and his mother were evacuated to Malta, according to MSF.

The dinghy was only detected after nine days at sea, says Safa Mselhi, spokesperson for the United Nations International Organization for Migration. A pregnant woman who could not be resuscitated died aboard the rescue vessel.

The Geo Barents rescued 71 people from the sinking, some with fuel burns, caused by skin contact with gasoline that mixed with seawater.

The survivors of the Geo Barents had to wait nearly five days to land, only being allowed to disembark in the Italian city of Taranto on Saturday. The ship was carrying the body of the pregnant woman during this time.

Juan Matías Gil, MSF Search and Rescue Representative, said: “This traumatic event is a deadly consequence of the growing inaction and disengagement of European and other border states, including Italy and Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Tragedies at sea continue to claim thousands of lives, and these people are lost at Europe’s doorstep, in the absolute silence and indifference of EU states.”

Sea rescue charities have repeatedly accused the European Union of failing to save refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean by asking the so-called Libyan coast guard to intercept any boat attempting to cross, despite the allegations of abuse in detention centers run by the Libyan militia.

According to MSF, at least 8,500 people died or disappeared, and 95,000 were sent back to Libya, during attempts to cross the Mediterranean between 2017 and 2021.

Wednesday morning 306 people disembarked in Sicily from the Ocean Viking rescue vessel of SOS Méditerranée. Some of the survivors had been on board for 12 days. The ship has carried out eight rescues in less than two weeks – the most recent, on Monday, of 15 people adrift for two days.


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