Hearing a baby cry inconsolably is always stirring up anyone. Imagine those cries in the dark, on the high seas, in a boat whose engine has broken down, where there is hardly any water or food left and where your life is at risk. Now stop imagining, because it is not necessary, the situation is real. This time there are two babies of eight and nine months, it happens almost every night, in waters of the Mediterranean or in those of the Atlantic.
We ignore its existence, we usually look the other way unless we find out about the umpteenth tragedy. The difference is that this time we are watching and listening to them because they have arrived in time to save them. Enisse and Abraham are crying at the top of their lungs, from hunger, from fear, and who knows if out of anger at not understanding why they are there, why the conditions in their countries are so compromised that they have to leave them or why Europe continues without articulate routes so that neither newborns, nor anyone else, have to gamble on a boat to cross to this privileged shore of the planet.
“Babies are scared. Help us.”
“Her name is Enisse, she is 8 months old, my name is Aminata, we are from Ivory Coast”. Aft and surrounded by her 18 fellow travelers, she is the first to introduce herself. Have 24 years. “Mine is called Abraham, he is 9 months old, I am Mislie, we are also from the Ivory Coast, the babies are afraid. Help us,” claims the other mother located very close to the forward gunwale where we see her repeatedly breastfeeding Abraham to try to stop him from crying desperately.
We are in full rescue, long, tense, the third of Tuesday’s day for the crew of the Astral. This time with all the efforts to keep the 19 occupants of this fishing boat calm, built for at most two artisanal sailors to work and which today is so loaded that it floats barely a foot above the waves. There are two other children under the age of 10 and six other women.
The anguish accelerates, the cries stand out even above the noise the engine of the auxiliary boat of the Astral that comes to help them. The good state of the sea and having been found in time has prevented a new tragedy.
“My baby was born here, on the way”
“The situation in my country is not going well: the economic crisis, the war. There are many things for which I have had to leave my country. My baby was born here, on the way, I gave birth in Tunisia, I left Costa de Ivory 19 months ago, “explains Mislie, Abraham’s mother, one of the most restless, at the time of the rescue.
“Babies can’t stay here any longer,” he repeats several times. “I am a beautician, I would like to work in a hairdresser. I have no relatives in Europe, my future is to work and earn a salary, that’s what I want,” he dreams of the starry sky at age 20. in the middle of the Mediterranean.
Calls for help from Tunisian fishermen
The situation of the boat had been compromised since it was spotted by Tunisian fishermen in the middle of the afternoon when they began desperately calling the Lampedusa control center by radio. “Come here!” .
“The water is entering, we are cold, we have been traveling since two in the morning yesterday, when do the Italians come?” Asks a restless 26-year-old Fadiagu, from Mali, specifically from Kayes at ten at night. , from the Nioro Du Sahel region, near Kita, an area from which many Malians often depart who end up on the migration route to the Canary Islands.
“I have left my country because there is no hope there, I am just looking for an opportunity to work,” he explains, while reducing the water that continues to enter the boat, which has been four months in Asfax, on the Tunisian coast, until it has been able to find the boat with which to cross the Mediterranean.
Words to calm
As the hours pass, the crew of the Astral continue talking to them to calm them down. In the operation of the Spanish rescuers, which began after 7:00 in the afternoon, the movements develop quickly and following the protocols that have been well rehearsed after more than five years of Open Arms activity rescuing these shipwrecked from the system of European borders.
The first thing is to assure them against any impediment, distributing life jackets, including tiny special ones for babies. Later, they verify that there is no emergency medical case, they begin to speak with them, they ask for water and food, they have traveled many hours. After distributing the bottles, energy bars or cookies, it is the mothers who are the most nervous, they ask all the time when they are going to take them out of the water, that the babies are very afraid, that they are cold.
A boat full of stories
The boat is full of stories, such as that of a young farmer from the Gambia, those of other twenty-somethings from Abidyan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, the country of origin of most of these 19 people who have returned to stake their lives and their future before the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, at the stern of the boat, two young people holding hands smile and spend the hours much more relaxed, as if it were not with them, it is their particular honeymoon with which they hope to start a new life together in Europe.
A complicated but successful rescue
“It was a more complicated rescue because it was done at night, water entered the boat, there were eight women and four children, including two babies who would not stop crying, and that creates a little more nervousness among them. Tired, they had been in the boat since two in the morning the day before and then all that accumulated plus the three hours it took for the Coast Guard to arrive has added a bit more nervousness but finally they have arrived and they have managed to finish the rescue “, explains Maitane Carnero, one of the two lifeguards who has been securing the boat, distributing vests, water or food and trying to reassure the group, which at times became desperate because they were still at the mercy of the waves and the Italian patrol boat. it was late.
Enisse and Abraham, the two babies born on the road, who would not stop crying, are now on solid ground. They have slept in Lampedusa, where this Tuesday several hundred migrants and refugees rescued have been taken in waters that add up to almost 39 thousand lives saved so far this year. Enisse and Abraham arrive in a Europe, that of their rulers, that does not want to hear their cries nor does it love them or their mothers. For more than 30 years we have been playing deaf with everything that continues to happen on the southern European border.