Drowned Baby a Crushing Symbol of Migrant Crisis
Was one of 3 infants pulled from Mediterranean on Friday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2016 6:39 AM CDT
A Sea-Watch crew member holds a drowned migrant baby during a rescue operation off the coasts of Libya on May 27.   (Christian Buttner/EIKON NORD GMBH GERMANY via AP)

(Newser) – The figure bobbing in the water looked "like a doll, arms outstretched." But what German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch pulled from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday was not a doll. "I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once," says a rescuer, who's seen cradling the baby in a photo that's quickly becoming a symbol of Europe's devastating migrant crisis. "It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes." The child—it isn't clear if it was a boy or a girl—was likely less than a year old and was on a boat traveling from Libya to Italy when it capsized, reports Reuters. There were 135 survivors, but at least 44 others died, including two other infants, reports the Sun.

"I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment," the rescuer, a father of three, adds. The body—photographed by a media company aboard the rescue boat—was then turned over to the Italian navy, along with 25 others Sea-Watch recovered. "It's always a difficult decision to publish such a picture, but … we thought that this material needs to be published because what we see here is the effect of European foreign policy," a Sea-Watch rep tells Reuters, per CBS News. "The calls by EU politicians to avoid further death at sea sum up to nothing more than lip service," the group adds. "If we do not want to see such pictures we have to stop producing them." (A photo of a drowned Syrian boy also put a human face on the crisis.)