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A baby born on a migrant rescue boat and his mother were allowed into Italy


A baby was born this week on a rescue ship only hours after his mother and others were found in an overcrowded rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean. It's not the first time, but it does highlight the continual and perilous crossings of thousands of migrants. The infant and his mother were brought to shore in Italy. But, as NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports, finding a place for rescued migrants to dock in Europe is increasingly difficult.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Video footage from the rescue ship operated by the charity Doctors Without Borders shows a medic listening to the strong little heartbeat of the baby the charity calls Ali in the moments after he was born.


SHERLOCK: His mother, whose identity Doctors Without Borders is not releasing, is from Guinea. She went into labor while on an overcrowded smuggler's boat that had pushed off from Libya into the Mediterranean Sea. Eventually, the rescue boat that she'd been on, along with hundreds of other migrants, was told it could head for Italy. But other rescue boats were still at sea.

SASHA OCKENDEN: And we currently have around - we have exactly 261 people on board. And that's men, women, children. That includes pregnant women.

SHERLOCK: Sasha Ockenden from the charity SOS Humanity says it's becoming ever more difficult to find a port for the migrants they rescue to disembark in.

OCKENDEN: And these people are waiting to be allocated a place of safety at ports of safety, which is their legal right under the law of the sea, under international law.

SHERLOCK: He says the migrants, many of them deeply traumatized and in need of medical care, sometimes have to wait on the ship for weeks.

LAURENCE BONDARD: That's absolutely a political decision.

SHERLOCK: Laurence Bondard from the charity SOS Mediterranee says Italy's right-wing government has recently limited the number of ships that can dock. Italy says it's received more than 93,000 migrants by sea this year alone - far more than any other European country - and that its reception centers are full. Bondard says the solution has to involve all European countries.

BONDARD: It cannot be a question of only coastal states. It has to be a European member state responsibility, and what we are requesting is exactly that.

SHERLOCK: Her charity and other rescue groups want a centralized search-and-rescue service that is run in coordination with all European Union countries and so prevents individual states from arguing over who will receive rescued migrants. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.