Around 6,800 migrants rescued, baby girl born on Italian navy ship

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By Steve Scherer

ROME – Around 6,800 migrants were rescued from overcrowded boats crossing to Europe the weekend, including a mother who gave birth to a baby girl an Italian navy ship, the coast guard said.

Numbers risking the journey search of a better life have continued to rise two weeks after as many as 900 drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory.

Crew from the Italian naval vessel Bettica found the woman in labour on a boat overnight — one of 34 vessels intercepted over the weekend. A photo posted online showed her new sleeping in a makeshift cradle decorated with a pink bow.

“Both mother and daughter are in good health,” the navy said in a statement.

Growing lawlessness and in Libya — the last point on one of the main transit routes to Europe — is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of 80,000 euros ($90,000) from each boatload, according to an ongoing investigation by an Italian court.

Mild spring weather and calm summer seas are expected to push arrivals in Italy for 2015 to 200,000, an increase of 30,000 on last year, according to an Interior Ministry projection.

Police said officers rescued 21 immigrants in a boat off the southern coast of Spain on Monday.

On Sunday, seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and three others died after jumping into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the Italian coast guard said.