Malta airlifts newborn and mother from migrant ship

The newborn baby evacuated to MaltaImage copyright

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The baby was taken to hospital in Malta after being born three days earlier on a beach in Libya

Malta has airlifted a newborn and his mother from a Spanish migrant rescue ship and rejected accusations that it had refused food to more than 300 other migrants on board.

The baby was born three days earlier on a beach in Libya and his life was in danger, the Proactiva charity said.

Proactiva’s boat was refused entry to Malta and Italy, while France, Tunisia and Libya did not respond to requests.

Malta said crew had told officials they had enough provisions for two days.

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A Maltese spokesman said the airlift had gone beyond Malta’s legal obligations, as the migrants were rescued on Friday in waters supervised by Libya.

Earlier the charity posted on Instagram that the 311 migrants – including pregnant women, children and babies – had been rescued from “certain death at sea” and said Malta had refused to provide food, adding “this isn’t Christmas”.

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The baby and his mother were airlifted off the rescue boat

Meanwhile Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, from the far-right Lega party, tweeted that “Italian ports are closed” and the migrants would not be allowed to land.

He also tweeted a picture of his lunch and said he had eaten well, prompting an angry response from Proactiva’s founder Oscar Camps, who said future generations would be “ashamed” of him.

Proactiva says its vessel is now heading towards the port of Algeciras in southern Spain, where the migrants can disembark.

A Spanish government statement said the vessel had been allowed to head to Spain “due to the refusal or lack of response from the nearest ports”.

The journey will take five or six days but another Proactiva vessel is on its way with more supplies.

Meanwhile, a German NGO, Sea-Watch, said it had rescued 33 migrants at sea and was appealing for a port where they could disembark.

Image Copyright @seawatch_intl

Twitter post by @seawatch_intl: BREAKING  @seawatchcrew just rescued another 33 in maritime distress. Now all we want for #christmas is a Port of Safety for those and for the 311 on the @openarms_fund. Do not only talk about christian values, it´s time to act  A safe port is needed before Christmas Eve. Image Copyright @seawatch_intl

More than 1,300 migrants have died trying to reach Italy or Malta since the beginning of the year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

On Thursday the UN said migrants travelling through Libya to Europe were subject to “unimaginable horrors” in the lawless country.

Most women and older teenage girls say they were raped by smugglers or traffickers, the report said.

“Across Libya, unidentified bodies of migrants and refugees bearing gunshot wounds, torture marks and burns are frequently uncovered in rubbish bins, dry river beds, farms and the desert,” it said.

Media captionThousands of migrants are still losing their lives trying to reach Europe by boat