‘Miracle baby’ found in boat off Spanish coast

Spanish coastguards were shocked on Tuesday to discover a baby girl, just months old, alone without her parents aboard a 'toy boat' in the waters off Spain's south coast.

'Miracle baby' found in boat off Spanish coast
The baby girl, who has been given the name of Princesa by Red Cross workers, was found soaked, shaking and with a 38.5C temperature. Screen grab: Antenna 3

The baby girl, who was given the name of Princesa by Red Cross workers, was found soaked, shaking and with a 38.5C temperature in one of the 94 inflatable boats that reached the Spanish coast on Tuesday, Spanish media reported.

While she was shared the boat with other would-be immigrants, including children, her parents were not aboard the vessel.

"We took care of the girl while she was here, a nurse gave her a check up and volunteers stayed with her, giving her bottled milk," Red Cross spokesperson Miguel Domingo told The Local from southern Spain.

"These are similar to the procedures we follow with all babies who arrive here after being rescued at sea, because their mothers arrive on shore very tired. The only difference in this case, of course, was our volunteers had to stay with the baby girl at all times."   

"The baby had a slight fever, but this cleared up quickly," he added.

The toy in which 'Princesa' was found had departed from Morocco before being intercepted en route to Tarifa, Spain's southernmost port.

According to other rescued African immigrants, an altercation with Morrocan police officers before the tiny boat's departure prevented the parents from making it onto the inflatable boat with their child.

The government of the Spanish region of Andalucia has taken custody of Princesa and is now hoping her parents will contact them.

She has been temporarily placed with a family, regional authorities said on Friday. 

Spain's coast guard picked up more than a thousand sub-Saharan migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar on Tuesday and Wednesday, part of a surge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe's southern shores.

Authorities blamed the rise in the number of migrants trying to cross the Strait on traffickers seeking to take advantage of calm summer seas and the end of the Islamic holy Ramadan month of fasting on July 28th

On Thursday, Morrocco and Spain agreed to step up efforts to stop the flow of immigrants, with Spain's interior ministry saying it would send 475 agents to Spain's African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla and to the southern Spanish port of Algeciras‏.

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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.