Warning: Graphic content
Footage of a desperate mother on a dinghy, pleading with rescuers to save her baby as they fish out another toddler from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea, has been uploaded by a humanitarian NGO.
The mother can be heard screaming “I am not going to leave my baby behind… I lost my baby,” as rescuers look for survivors in choppy seas off Libya late on Wednesday morning.
The infant, Joseph from Guinea, was eventually rescued, however, he died soon after.
All around, people's heads can be seen bobbing in the sea, some frantically looking for something to hold onto to remain alive.
“Despite the enormous efforts of the Open Arms medical team, a six-month-old baby has just died as a result of the shipwreck. He did not make it until the urgent evacuation… so much anger and pain,” the NGO Open Arms tweeted.
The footage shows another toddler being pulled out of the water. He found refuge on the same rescue vessel as Joseph’s mother. This toddler survived the ordeal, however, his mother did not, the NGO confirmed.
The Spanish NGO managed to rescue some 100 people. Sadly, six of the refugees, including six-month-old Joseph, died.
The Open Arms rescue ship was already carrying 88 migrants from a separate mission and in a third rescue late on Wednesday, it saved another 64 people. It is carrying more than 250 asylum seekers.
'A dramatic scene'
According to The Guardian, the dinghy that little Joseph was on allegedly left Sabratha, Libya, but began to deflate after a few hours. A Frontex patrol aircraft raised the alarm and the Open Arms vessel promptly intervened.
“When our rescuers arrived, they found themselves in front of a dramatic scene,” Riccardo Gatti, the president of Open Arms Italy, told The Guardian.
“The boat had practically imploded and hundreds of people found themselves in the water, in the open sea – some were children.”
Since Joseph’s condition was serious, the NGO asked the Maltese and Italian authorities to evacuate him for medical treatment. However, when the Italian coastguard arrived, Joseph had already died.
Another child and 12 people are believed to have died in a separate shipwreck off Libya on Tuesday.
Just three months ago, 45 migrants died off Libya in the deadliest shipwreck of the year. UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration had called on countries to urgently review their approach to the tragic situation, which routinely sees migrants desperate to leave war-ravaged Libya for Europe perish at sea.
A month later the EU proposed a pact that would ensure member stated share responsibility for settling refugees and sending rejected asylum seekers home.
'We can't let them drown, we can't let them all in'
This week, Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo told a consultation on the regional review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that as “human traffickers continue to send more migrant boats from North Africa towards Europe”, Malta was caught between two extremes: let them drown and let them all in.
“We do not want to do either. But we have no alternative to cooperating with Libya to intercept and take back the boats of irregular migrants," he said.
The minister said this year, more than 2,000 irregular migrants arrived in Malta.
"Proportionately, that is the equivalent of two million arriving in the EU,” he said.
Without the help of Libya, over 9,000 people would have arrived. This would translate into a huge crisis and emergency for Malta, which we cannot allow to happen, he added.
Current situation in the Mediterranean
Alarm Phone said in a tweet late on Thursday that more than 150 people are in distress in Malta’s search and rescue zone and another 75 people have been missing since Wednesday, also in Malta’s SAR.
The tweet followed news by the United Nations that at least 74 migrants perished in a "devastating" shipwreck on Thursday off the Libyan coast. Coastguard and fishermen are searching for survivors.