Strong emotions on the AQUARIUS these days. It is always full of emotions when we rescue people from distress in the Mediterranean. Overwhelming emotions when we look into the relieved and thankful faces of those that feel safe on our rescue vessel. Unbelievable emotions when they tell us their stories. But these days they are a different, wonderful kind of emotions here on board.
A baby boy was born in the morning of 12 September with the help of Médecins Sans Frontièrs midwife Jonquil – only a few hours after his mother Faith was rescued from a small overcrowded rubber boat alongside her husband Otas and their two sons Victory (7 years old) and Rollres (5 years old).
It was exactly seven o’clock on the AQUARIUS, in the middle of the Mediterranean that the healthy baby boy was born. He was born in international waters to Nigerian parents who at that time were still deciding on his name.
Currently, 392 people are on board after two rubber boats could be rescued on Monday morning. 154 people on board are under 18, there are 10 children under 5 and now 4 babies under a year old. 141 of those who are under 18, are traveling alone – without a parent or guardian accompanying them.
Faith recounts “I was very stressed on the rubber boat, sitting on the floor of the boat with the other women and children. Panicking that I would go into labor. I could feel my baby moving, he would move down and then move back up again. I had been having contractions for three days.”
MSF Midwife Jonquil delivered the baby “A very normal birth in dangerously abnormal conditions. I am filled with horror at the thought of what would have happened if this baby had arrived 24 hours earlier; in that unseaworthy rubber boat, with fuel on the bottom where the women sit, crammed in with no space to move, at the mercy of the sea.”
Everybody is happy on board the AQUARIUS, not only the proud parents and the two brothers. Newman Otas is fine and sleeping loads.
A few hours after this first very emotional wonderful moment of this day we have a transfer of people from an Italian navy vessel. They were rescued at the same time we were busy saving the people from the two rubber boats – only at a different location North east of Tripoli.
The AQUARIUS welcomes another 139 children, women and men from 11 different countries. We are hosting a total of 392 guests on board. During this transfer a mother and her two young sons are getting nervous. We can feel that something is going on. She is hoping, expecting something.
A few minutes later we understand. We can see how the emotions find their way through and the woman is running to the half deck. She is hugging a man who arrived with the transfer from the navy vessel. It is her husband and father of her 2 sons. The young boys are jumping on deck and are hugging the legs of their dad.
“We were separated on this beach somewhere in Libya. I do not remember everything. There was shooting and we were forced onto the rubber boats. My husband had to enter a different rubber boat. My two sons and I had to go on the other rubber boat, everything happened so quickly” says the mother.
After a horrific 10 hours at sea in an overcrowded rubber boat, finally rescued by SOS MEDITERRANEE, one night on board of the AQUARIUS without any news of their beloved one, the family is finally reunited on board our rescue vessel.
This Monday was full of deep emotions, happy endings, new futures, laughing, singing, praying and smiles on so many different faces here on board the AQUARIUS – including the exhausted teams of SOS MEDITERRRANE and MSF.
Text: René Schulthoff
Photo: Marco Panzetti