5-day-old twins rescued by an aid group as thousands attempt to cross Mediterranean
More than 264,500 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year
A five-day-old newborn peers out from a pink blanket. His dark, almond-shaped eyes stare directly at the camera, his tiny hand tucked underneath his chin.
His short life has been anything but easy.
He, his twin brother and his mother were among the 6,500 refugees and migrants rescued in a 30-hour period while attempting to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.
Médecins Sans Frontières’ ship Dignity 1 and the Spanish humanitarian group Proactiva Open Arms rescued people who were aboard 15 rubber boats and one wooden vessel Monday.
The twins and their mother were transferred via Medevac for treatment in Italy, according to a tweet from MSF.
As many as 3,000 of the migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya by MSF, Proactiva Open Arms and Italian coast guard crews and one rescue took place in Maltese waters.
A total of 40 different rescue operations were responsible for bringing in the 6,500 migrants and refugees, including EU’s Marine mission “Sophia,” which fights smugglers; and Frontex, the European Agency tasked with border security.
The Italian coast guard said the rescued migrants are being taken to ports in Calabria and Sicily.
CNN recently witnessed the rescue of 366 migrants and refugees by the private humanitarian agency Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The rescuers pulled people, mostly from African nations, from waters a few miles north of the Libyan city of Sabratha. Read the tale of that desperate day at sea.
The number of people plucked from sea on Monday was much higher than the average. Just two weeks ago, in the week that started August 14, the route was used by 2,197 migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration. Monday’s rate nearly tripled that weekly amount.
Migrants flee conflict and violence
Most of the migrants rescued this week came from sub-Saharan Africa. Many of them using the central Mediterranean route, which runs roughly from Libya or other north African countries to Italy, are from Nigeria, Eritrea and Gambia, according to the IOM.
According to the IOM, migrants are taking advantage of Libya’s ongoing political chaos to escape over the mostly open borders. The Libyan crisis has helped boost a lucrative smuggling business, with African migrants who reach southern Libya being transported through the desert to northern beaches where they board boats bound for Europe.
This year, 264,513 people arrived in Europe by sea, landing mostly in Greece and Italy, according to IOM estimates released in mid-August.
Of those who attempted the crossing, 3,165 people have died at sea, authorities said. At this rate, according to the IOM, the number of deaths will likely exceed last year’s total of 3,771.
Most of the deaths in 2016 came from people risking this particular route – Libya to Italy – which is considered dramatically more dangerous. They’re also using flimsy plastic rafts or wooden crafts not built for such a voyage, and all of the vessels tend to be overcrowded – some carrying 600 or more passengers, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
While the number of deaths is expected to be worse this year, the total number of illegal migrant crossings into Europe via the Mediterranean is significantly lower, according to Frontex.
But as migrant boats and rafts cross the Mediterranean Sea, gateways into Europe are narrowing and many are growing wary.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which conducts rescue operations in the Mediterranean, has called on the international community to consider safe and legal routes to end the number of deaths at sea. It says decision-makers should not think in terms of numbers, but rather about the individuals.
“It is only by treating the hundreds of thousands like the deserving individuals they are that dignified and humanitarian solutions can truly be reached,” MOAS said.
CNN’s Carol Jordan, Milena Veselinovic, Richard Allen Greene and Bianca Britton contributed to this report.