On Wednesday 7th December, little *Ali entered the world on board the Geo Barents, a search and rescue vessel chartered by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). His mother, Fatima*, gave birth in the small medical clinic on board, after hours of difficult labour. The pain began while she was still aboard the packed and unstable rubber boat she and her three other children had taken across the Mediterranean in search of safety. They were among the 90 survivors rescued by the MSF team on Tuesday 6th December, in international waters near Libya.
Although the delivery went well, the mother and her newborn needed postnatal specialised medical care. The MSF team therefore requested a medical evacuation to the nearest competent authorities, Malta and Italy. Malta's first proposal was to evacuate Fatima* and Ali* by helicopter without giving any options to the other three children, thus separating the family.
In addition to being immoral and increasing the psychological trauma of the family, their separation would have gone against two fundamental and universal human rights: the right to family life and unity together with the principle of the best interest of the child. After hours of negotiations, all the members of the family were finally taken to Lampedusa and then transferred to Sicily, where we hope they will get the appropriate care and protection.
Another woman on board, nine months pregnant, also needed immediate medical attention that could not be provided on the ship and was evacuated to Malta the same night. The evacuation of a 14-year-old boy is imminent too.